Friday, December 12, 2008

Idaho Ho Ho from Larry Craig

The most graceless of us are incapable of self-awareness and what to most folk would be obvious moral behavior. Let us take special note of soon-to-be ex-U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho).

This has been an annual celebration, including last year's Craig in the Box Keeps Popping Up. Come next month, after 28 years in one Congressional chamber or the other, he'll be back home, wrangling poodles or whatever he favors to pass the time.

As if to construct his own public stocks and keep himself displayed in his shame, he has set up a defense fund. The Fund for Justice (stop that snickering!) couldn't pay for half a week of legal fees yet. Then again, Craig will soon have lots of time to devote to this.

Actually, I suspect he'll continue his quixotic crusade to pretend he wasn't cruising in the Minneapolis airport john. I have been seeing in Idaho papers and blogs that people predict that his latest effort to withdraw his disorderly conduct plea in that case would end it. He got the Minnesota Court of Appeals to consider his risible claim that peering into a stall occupied by a man for two minutes, then tapping his foot to get his attention and repeatedly displaying his hand under the stall were protected free speech.

To heighten the amusement, let me note that the ACLU continues to support Craig. It has an agenda that apparently does not include increasing the seasonal merriment. They claim that the Minnesota law that the police used in their toilet-stall sting is too broad.

Sting operations can, if you pardon the expression, suck. Yet, the conduct law coupled with the Craig written guilty plea makes this truly an odd case for the rights organization to join.

December 9th, the court disagreed with Craig's claims. In an unpublished opinion (don't try to cite it for legal precedence, per another law, Sect. 480A.08, subd 3 [2006]), a three-judge panel of the court denied his request to withdraw his plea. That included a finding that the law was not too broad. People reasonably expected privacy on the toilet seat. "Offensive speech may be prohibited as intrusive when the 'captive' audience cannot avoid the speech," wrote the probably seated judges.

The rest of us with normal social graces would have taken our lumps on this one. Despite hoots from many, he continues to insist he is not gay and has never had sexual contact with males. He frequently mentions his beard wife Suzanne, with whom he has not bred, although he cites "our children." Whether he is homosexual and closeted or not is far less relevant than his getting caught wiggle-fingered in the airport pissoir, and then taking a month to consider the response before choosing guilty and paying the fine.

In the Idaho Statesman's Washington bureau, Erika Bolstad has been on the investigation, including the defense fund. She detailed the $4,645 he reported in his October filing (those reports are not online) for the fund he had registered on September 12th. Bolstad reported that his lawyer, Billy Martin, opened the fund in June. Craig has subsequently gotten scolded by the Senate ethics folk for using campaign funds for his legal expenses but then got permission to register and use the new fund.

His fund site is amusing on its own. It uses that spooky, skeletal portrait that is also on his Senate site. It is a single web page, with an email link but no phone, an address for mailing checks to, wording about how your donations are limited to $10,000 per year and other restraints, and a single button at the bottom to link to an online store-style credit card or PayPay system.

Apparently the $10,000 has not been a problem yet. There seem to be some chums kicking in at the housewarming-gift level. As Bolstad put it, "Most of the donations to Craig's expense fund range from $50 to $300." At the high end, one couple (Vicki and Franz White of Star) gave $1,000, another (Larry and Marianne Williams) $500 and one other (neighbors Joseph and Elizabeth David) $250. The others were tokens so far.

The consensus is that, come January, Craig will back off this absurd innocence routine. I bet otherwise.

Some fish when they retire. Idaho is one of the world's best places to do that. Others pretend to exercise on the golf course. I say that if Craig has been willing to show such graceless jive about his behavior and sexual orientation for so long, he won't be able to leave it alone.

He has a month, until a few days before he is out of office, to file an appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court on some picayune legal point. I'd put money on that failing, likely in the form of the high court refusing to waste its time on it at all, but I would be surprised if he didn't try.

As thoroughly and as long as he has made himself the object of ridicule and disdain, he has a real side. Agree with his positions or not, he has a long list of real-life bills that he has supported or introduced.

It is his broad delusional self that has brought him so low.

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