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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

So how will Senate Republicans square their calls for Sen. Larry Craig's resignation with their support for Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)?

Let's put it this way: Vitter did more than slide his foot under a bathroom stall. He has as much as admitted to breaking the law by paying for prostitutes proffered by the D.C. Madam. He left precious little ambiguity in his public statements, though he didn't go quite as far as Craig's guilty plea.

But that is a slim reed of a difference. Is the only real difference for GOPers that Vitter was in for straight sex (though apparently pretty kinky straight sex, by one account) whereas Craig went in for gay sex in public places?

There's been considerable commentary on conservative commentators' double standard for Vitter and Craig. But it's a standard GOP senators are going to have to answer for, too. Let the squirming begin.

Late Update: I included the last link above, to Kevin Drum, because it specifically lays out one possible reason for the double standard: Craig's replacement would be appointed by a Republican governor, Vitter's by a Democratic governor.

In a sign of how toxic the political environment is for Senate Republicans, the GOP leadership in the Senate asked Sen. Larry Craig to give up his committee assignments--and then put out a public statement about it. The move is supposedly temporary, until the Ethics Committee sorts out the complaints against Craig over his conviction in the airport bathroom incident. One of those ethics complaints yesterday came from none other than the Senate GOP leadership itself.

Meanwhile, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), one of the most vulnerable Republicans seeking re-election next year, this afternoon called publicly for Craig's resignation. Nearly simultaneously, Sen. John McCain, a presidential candidate, did so as well. No Democrats in the Senate have yet said Craig should resign.

While most Senate Republicans can't distance themselves from Craig fast enough, Trent Lott, having been through the wringer himself over the comments he made about Strom Thurmond that cost him his position as Senate majority leader, is more circumspect, telling Bloomberg TV's "Money & Politics":

I am shocked and I am disappointed at you know, this turn of events. . . but I also have learned the hard way that before you jump to conclusions or call on people to do one thing or another at least know all of the facts and you know take advantage of an opportunity to hear what, you know, really happened."


That's the sober assessment of a politician who has stared into the abyss.

Election Central has a rundown on what happens if Craig were to heed the calls to step down.

For all its well-earned reputation for cynicism, the Washington press corps, or some elements of it, has sure taken a rosy-eyed view of the Gonzales resignation.

The Los Angeles Times called it a "blessing" and an "opportunity" for President Bush, and "a chance to salvage his relationship with Capitol Hill and the legacy of his second term."

Roger Simon at The Politico says Bush is putting his legacy above loyalty: "Once famous for his loyalty to subordinates, Bush is now showing himself very capable of jettisoning the ones who create too much controversy." Very capable?

And everyone seems to be of the earnest opinion that Bush must nominate as Gonzales' successor someone of great independence and integrity to restore the Department of Justice. Wouldn't that be great.

TPM Reader MT isn't buying it, and neither am I:

Democratic lawmakers, such as Senator Schumer, and countless left-leaning bloggers have given their prescription for the AG nominee: he should be independent, not a member of the Bush inner circle, more loyal to the law than to the GOP, etc. But after watching the video of the petulant, irritated Bush making his brief statement about losing Gonzo, and hearing his claim that a good man had been "dragged through the mud," I can't help but think that the AG nominee will not be independent of the White House in any way, and will, in fact, be a middle finger to the Democrats in the Senate. Bush the spoiled brat will not be cooperative, but will instead take his ball and go home. After watching his temper tantrum, I don't see how any sane person could get a sense that the White House will capitulate on the next AG.

This just seems self-evident at this stage.


If, as the evidence overwhelmingly suggests, Gonzales was a mere Bush flunky, a cipher, an amiable man doing the bidding of more powerful and more sinister men, then his departure can hardly be said to herald a new era so long as Bush (and Cheney) occupy the White House.

There is a persistent meme in press coverage that Bush--like Reagan--remains a figure aloof and removed not just from the partisan fray but from the words and deeds of his appointees and underlings. He stands apart, or so goes the thinking, undoubtedly encouraged by spin from the White House and Bushies.

Nearly seven years into his Presidency, don't we have a pretty good idea of the character and abilities of this man? There is a long track record now of truly unparalleled incompetence, corruption, and politicization. What more do we need to know? Bush's legacy is firmly entrenched, and barring any seismic historical events between now and January 2009, any changes to that sorry legacy will be at the margins.

The Idaho Values Alliance--whose fortuitous juxtaposition on its website of articles praising Sen. Larry Craig's pro-life voting record and warning of the dangers of homosexuality and airport restrooms I highlighted the other day--is now calling for Craig to resign his Senate seat (via Kornacki):

The Judeo-Christian tradition says that the standard for identifying the truth is that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact is confirmed.” The senator’s guilty plea, when added to the officer’s testimony, satisfies the biblical standard for confirming the essential truth of what happened, and unless the senator can provide a compelling and convincing explanation for his plea, we will need to regretfully accept that the fact of his behavior has been established. It seems unlikely that he can “unring the bell” his guilty plea has sounded.


I'm sure the "ring the bell" double entendre was completely unintended (as was, by the way, the opening line of Craig's press appearance yesterday: "Thank you all very much for coming out today . . .").

In any event, the IVA isn't stopping with Larry Craig. It won't be satisfied until all homosexuals are run out of the GOP:

One larger issue must be addressed. The Republican Party platform clearly rejects the agenda of homosexual activists. The Party, in the wake of the Mark Foley incident in particular, can no longer straddle the fence on the issue of homosexual behavior. Even setting Senator Craig’s situation aside, the Party should regard participation in the self-destructive homosexual lifestyle as incompatible with public service on behalf of the GOP.

No member of the Republican Party in the 1860s could represent his party and be a slaveholder at the same time. Nor can the Republican Party of today speak with authority and clarity to the moral issues that confront our society and at the same time send ambivalent messages about sexual behavior. It is time for the Republican Party to be the party that defends the American family in word, deed, and by personal example.


Let the purges begin. Presumably, in addition to homosexuals, the GOP must be cleansed of the divorced, adulterers, abortion recipients, gamblers . . . the list goes on. Once you remove all the "sinners" from the Republican Party, the Democrats should hold a decided electoral advantage.

GOP political consultant Scott Reed, reacting to the Larry Craig debacle:

“The real question for Republicans in Washington is how low can you go, because we are approaching a level of ridiculousness,” said Mr. Reed, sounding exasperated in an interview on Tuesday morning. “You can’t make this stuff up. And the impact this is having on the grass-roots around the country is devastating. Republicans think the governing class in Washington are a bunch of buffoons who have total disregard for the principles of the party, the law of the land and the future of the country.”


Welcome to the reality-based community, Scott.

Sen. Larry Craig comes out swinging. In a public appearance in Boise, Craig says he is not and never has been gay, and blames the Idaho Statesman for what he called vicious attacks against him, referring to the long investigation by the paper of rumors that Craig was gay, for his decision to plead guilty. Of course the paper didn't publish the results of that investigation until today--after news of Craig's June arrest and August guilty plea broke.

After spending the afternoon on a slew of emails about the Larry Craig bathroom incident--was it a crime? should it have been a crime? do I want people reaching under my bathroom stall?*--let's wrap this up on a lighter note. Elaine can only be glad that she was not in the Minneapolis airport in this scene (although that only postponed jail for her). Thanks to TPM Reader DM for the link.

*No.

Jack Goldsmith, the former head of Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, will testify before Congress after the summer recess about the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. This could get interesting.

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