Thursday, September 06, 2007

Larry Craig Really Doesn't Get It

Eventually we'll move on to something else, but we're still having fun with Larry Craig.

Now, Craig says he won't resign pending a determination of whether he can withdraw his guilty plea. He says that's because Republican Sen. Arlen Spector called and said he should fight this thing. We bet Arlen's regretting that call now.

In any event, it's not just the guilty plea that is causing Craig's problem.

Let's suppose for a moment that a Minnesota judge decides to entertain Craig's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The hearing will be a media circus. The judge will want to hear from Craig himself. He ought to be put under oath and swear to the facts that suddenly make his formerly knowing guilty plea untenable as a matter of law.

Then the local prosecutor will get to cross examine him. That will be fun. He'll point out that Craig is certainly more knowledgable, as a lawmaker, about the law than the average citizen. He'll point out that Craig was offered the opportunity to confer with counsel and turned it down. A number of other facts may also come out.

We're not sure what Craig's theory for overturning the guilty plea will be, but his lawyer said something about a deprivation of constitutional rights. Could Craig seriously argue that he was "coerced" into pleading guilty because the threat of prosecution and trial was so embarassing? That would be rich, since if his guilty plea is overturned, he'll still have to face trial. (More on that in a minute.) It's even richer because he'd practically be making the argument that ALL men arrested on charges implying they are gay are being coerced into guilty pleas because of the embarassment. Why, Larry Craig, homophobe from Idaho, could suddenly find himself the champion of gay rights!

Anyway, that's just step one. IF the judge was charitable enough to let Craig withdraw his guilty plea, then Craig will have to go to trial on the original charge. Flash: another, even larger, media circus, with many stories following each step of the way. Each time, every voter in Idaho will be reminded of the charges pending and the facts alleged--the foot touching, the foot tapping, the hand under the toilet divider, etc.

And, of course, the late night TV comedians will continue to have a field day with the whole thing.

Now, at trial, Craig won't have to testify. And maybe he won't. A good lawyer could pretty easily make a good case that the actions cited by the cop who arrested Craig could be consistent with innocent activity. We could get some interesting "expert" witnesses, too. So the argument will simply be that the state of Minnesota simply lacks sufficient evidence to convict Craig. And that might hold up.

All of this, of course, will play out over many months. Now, if Craig simply wants to serve out his term until the end of 2008, fine--he just has to ignore everything and serve it out. But if he really intends to run for re-election?! All this might serve as a bit of a distraction.

We think Craig's pretty stupid, but not so crazy that he really thinks he could be re-elected, regardless of whether he ultimately beats the rap. Let's say he goes to trial and is found "not guilty." Most Idaho voters probably still would think a guy who has such a wide stance as to touch other people's feet in the toilet is just too weird to be in the Senate.

By staying on to the end of his term, however, Craig creates all kinds of headaches for his Republican Party. And THAT is what we're hoping for. That, and the ability to keep blogging and flogging this fun story.

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