Sen. Larry Craig reversed his plan to resign even though a judge on Thursday denied his request to withdraw his guilty plea in a Minnesota airport men’s room sex sting. Judge Charles Porter Jr. said that Craig was of, “at least, above-average intelligence” and understood the consequences of his guilty plea on disorderly conduct charges.
Some of Craig’s colleagues called on him to keep his promise and step down; others said that by staying he was reopening the Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his conduct, which wouldn’t do anybody any good. Craig said he would try to clear his name until his term expires next year, then retire. “I hope this provides the certainty Idaho needs and deserves,” he said.
What the commentators said
You call that certainty? said the Idaho Statesman in an editorial. Craig needs to stick around so that he can fight to clear his name in the Senate Ethics Committee investigation. If the matter isn’t resolved before his term ends, will he change his mind again and try to get re-elected? This “circus” has already turned this state into the butt of countless jokes. It was "unfair" of Craig to break his promise to leave.
And the fun is far from over, said Bruce Reed in Slate. This “setback is just the first step in a legal strategy of three-taps-and-you're-out.” Craig’s lawyers clearly plan to move on to the Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court. It may have been Craig’s polite note thanking the prosecutor that sank his first try at winning a do-over. “Late-night comics may say Larry Craig is a dumb, disorderly peeper,” but Judge Porter thinks he’s “smart as a hack,” and knew exactly what he was doing.
“Let's face it,” said Josh Marshall in TalkingPointsMemo.com, “Larry Craig is demonstrably the shrewdest and most deft master of crisis communications in American history, quite possibly since the early days of the Roman Republic.” Craig’s colleagues “did everything short of physically forcing him to resign,” yet here he is. “I don't know whether it was all intentional. But it was ingenious. Who could have thought he would survive this?”
Craig’s flip-flop won him no friends within the GOP, said Carrie Budoff Brown and Martin Kady II in The Politico. The greatest fear for party leaders is that Craig’s mere presence will serve as a stain on the party, and a distraction “at an already difficult time for the GOP.” Sen. Arlen Spector, a former prosecutor, still says Craig would never be convicted at trial, but that’s cold comfort for the rest of the party.