I hope you all had a safe and restful Labor Day Weekend. Others, like Larry Craig, were not so lucky. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins recently noted of Republicans' numerous ethics scandals:
"Exit polls show that was the No. 1 factor in depressing Republican enthusiasm," Mr. Perkins said in an interview Tuesday. "There is an expectation that leaders who espouse family values will live by those values. And while the values voters don't demand perfection, I do believe they want leaders with integrity."
Well, the Republican Culture of Corruption that played a major role in 2006 is alive and well in 2008. And this week offered an illustration of the gestation period of a scandal from breaking news to resignation speech in about five days.
Idaho: Late afternoon on Monday, Roll Call broke the story of Senator Larry Craig's June arrest for "lewd conduct" in the men's room of a Minnesota airport. By Monday evening, Craig had released the first of what would be three public statements, ham-handedly trying to explain the situation. Then, on Tuesday, Craig made his second statement at a press event, not too dissimilar from prostitute-consorting David Vitter's press conference from two months ago, wife by his side and blaming the media for his ills. Having done absolutely nothing to rebuke Vitter, Pete Domenici, Ted Stevens, or Lisa Murkowski for their actions in the scandals and investigations in which they find themselves, Republican Senate "leadership"acted quickly, by Tuesday evening, to chastise Craig. (More on the double-standard later.) By Thursday morning, rank-and-file Republicans began calling for Craig's resignation, and Craig has given up his committee seats. And then, Thursday afternoon came the bombshell: audio of Craig's post-arrest interview hit the Tubes. It was damning; and, after that, it was only a matter of time. Friday offered much speculation; and, Saturday offered Craig's third of three statements: the resignation speech.
While Idaho Governor Butch Otter has not revealed who he will appoint to fill the vacancy when it arrives (or even when he will make such a decision), speculation has focused on Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who deferred to Otter when both were considering gubernatorial bids, and who was chomping at the bit for Larry Craig to announce a retirement earlier in the year so that he could run for Senate. The DSCC has made it quite clear that they will commit the necessary resources toward making Idaho's Senate race competitive. Meanwhile, NRSC Chairman John Ensign digs himself a hole as he explains the difference in GOP reactions to the Larry Craig scandal and the David Vitter scandal:
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., the Senate Republican campaign chairman, said Craig "admitted guilt. That is a big difference between being accused of something and actually admitting guilt."
"David Vitter never did that. Larry Craig did," continued Ensign on ABC's "This Week" program.
Put aside for a moment that David Vitter held a press conference acknowledging his indiscretions. (And if Ensign contends that Vitter never explicitly admitted that he solicited prostitutes, I think the Washington DC and Louisiana media should call Vitter's office every day for as long as it takes seeking a clarification.) If all Vitter did to deserve a giant round of "thunderous applause" from his Senate Republican colleagues upon his return from hiding after the breaking of his scandal was keep his chronic indiscretion under wraps long enough for the statute of limitations to expire on the crime he committed (yes, soliciting prostitutes is a crime in both Washington DC and Louisiana), then Senate Republicans are devoid of any character whatsoever. Fortunately for the Senate GOP, the rationale circulating around the blogosphere (but barely permeating into the mainstream media) is one of two other possibilities: either rank partisanship or rabid homophobia.
Pick your poison. Rationale One: With Vitter, we see a Louisiana that, for now, has a Democratic Governor who could pick a Democrat to replace Vitter if he resigned. Idaho's Republican Governor, however, ensures that the Idaho seat stays in GOP hands when Craig resigns. Convenient. Rationale Two: With Vitter, we saw a "family values" Republican who admitted to cheating on his wife with a female prostitute. It's only heterosexual infidelity, so it's fine. Meanwhile, with Craig, we saw a "family values" Republican, though married, attempting to score a consensual sexual partner who was male. How dare he?! (Read: Ewww, that's gay.) As Republicans try to use this one example of the GOP patrolling their own and weeding out those who commit misdeeds, expect Democrats to readily shoot back numerous examples of corrupt and scandalous Republicans gone unchecked, starting with David Vitter.
Virginia: In almost any other week, the retirement of John Warner would have been the top story. Not this week. But, yes, after what will be three decades in the U.S. Senate, the octogenarian Warner will be hanging it up. While Democrats anxiously await an announcement from popular former Governor Mark Warner, Republicans see a primary looming between Rep. Tom Davis and former Governor Jim Gilmore, which Real Clear Politics suggests"could be the bloodiest primary in the nation." It is worth noting that the DSCC showed considerable class in withholding politics from the news cycle of Warner's retirement announcement; Tom Davis' confidantes did not want to extend Warner the same courtesy.
South Dakota: As with Virginia, in almost any other week, the inspirational return to the public eye of a Senator struck with a near-fatal brain injury would have been the top story. Senator Tim Johnson gave a thank you speech to South Dakotans on Tuesday addressed his condition, his recovery, and the road ahead with humor, humility, gratitude, and perseverance. He also declared that he intends to seek re-election to the Senate in 2008. Further, Senator Johnson will return to the Senate on Wednesday. It is not exaggeration when I say "inspirational."
Louisiana: Lest people forgot about this in the midst of the Craig scandal, the Warner retirement, and the Johnson comeback, Louisiana had quite the to-do on Monday. Six weeks after Louisiana's highest ranking elected Republican, Senator David Vitter, made it clear that he cheated on his wife with prostitutes, the state's Treasurer, John N. Kennedy, declared that, "I have concluded that the Republican Party is the party that best reflects my values today." Some great values, huh? Treasurer Kennedy is now a Republican, which heightens expectations that he will challenge Senator Mary Landrieu in 2008. Hopefully Democrats will run a credible candidate for Treasurer against Kennedy later this year, if only to get him on the record with answers to questions like "If re-elected, do you promise Louisiana voters to serve your full term?" and "If you're just going to run for another office next year, why should voters re-elect you to this office this year?" Why is that particularly important? Because Treasurer Kennedy has demonstrated very mercurial career goals, clearly illustrating that he is always happy to junk his current job for the next rung up on the ladder.
Oregon: Speaker Jeff Merkley had quite a week, rolling out Veterans for Merkley (featuring a very distinguished trio at the helm) and, in honor of Labor Day, Labor Democrats for Merkley. Regarding the other side of the aisle, the Oregon Democratic Party laid out why Gordon Smith is bad for veterans. StopGordonSmith.com also has a fun feature, Smith vs. Smith, highlighting Gordon Smith's numerous notable flip-flops in rhetoric and votes.
Tennessee: TN-Dems may avoid a Senate primary as two possible candidates have said that they would step aside if businessman and gubernatorial son Mike McWherter moved forward with his candidacy, suggesting that McWherter is serious about giving Lamar Alexander a run for his money.
Nebraska: With all of the press former Senator Bob Kerrey is getting recently as he considers a 2008 Senate campaign, one would think that he is really leaning toward giving it a go.
Minnesota: Norm Coleman's anti-tax zealot base is peeved at him for not being enough of a zealot. Meanwhile, Nobel Laureate Dr. Peter Agre withdrew from consideration for the Democratic Senate primary. Also, MN Blue offers a handy comparison of the Democratic candidates, looking at their positions on issues and comparing endorsements.
North Carolina: State Representative and veteran of the War in Afghanistan Grier Martin continues to give careful consideration to a 2008 Senate challenge to the vulnerable Elizabeth Dole. Given his record of service in the state Legislature and the military, as well as the promise shown by early poll numbers, I hope he does opt for a bid. Blue NC concurs.
Oklahoma: Jim "In Denial" Inhofe says that he was "kind of excited" by the attacks in Iraq on the airplane carrying himself, Senators Mel Martinez and Richard Shelby, and Congressman Bud Cramer. The guy is an absolute lunatic.
Alabama: The first poll matching up Republican Bush rubber stamp Jeff Sessions and Democratic State Senator Vivian Figures shows Sessions with a 59-37 lead. Given the massive name ID advantage Sessions must currently enjoy and the fact that Sessions currently has the support of 30% of Democrats, this actually isn't terrible for Figures. Once she raises her name ID, ropes back in some of the Democrats who don't yet know there is an alternative to Sessions, and (hopefully) effectively ties Sessions to numerous failed Bush policies (even in Alabama, Bush has a net negative approval rating), we could see this deficit shrink to low-double-digits in short order.
New Mexico: While Pete Domenici and George W. Bush were sitting in a tree, F-U-N-D-R-A-I-S-I-N-G, large scale protests were organized against Domenici, Bush, and Bush's Iraq War. After all, Domenici is raising his campaign bankroll thanks to a visit by a man whose approve-disapprove in New Mexico stands at an abysmal 32-67. (You read that right: 32-67.)
Kentucky: As the Iraq protest wave found its way to Mitch McConnell's neck of the woods, McConnell lamely pleaded that "there's a good chance that in September we'll go in a different direction" in Iraq. Yeah, I don't believe anything McConnell says either. Meanwhile, speculation that former KY-GOP gubernatorial nominee Larry Forgy might challenge McConnell in a 2008 GOP Senate primary intensified as it was revealed that Forgy has close ties to none other than Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid. Small world.
South Carolina: Hotline On Call's Quote of the Day last week:
You know what my goal is? Not for universal agreement. But for a little bit of respect."
-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), being heckled on immigration, Columbia State, 8/28
I suppose that Graham still isn't feeling the love from his base.
Finally, Sunday's Washington Post featured an article entitled "GOP Faces Growing Peril in 2008 Races: Senate Prospects Dimming" that included some magically delicious quotes:
A Senate electoral playing field that was already wide open for 2008 has become considerably more perilous for Republicans with the retirement of Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and the resignation of scandal-scarred Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho). ...
"It's always darkest right before you get clobbered over the head with a pipe wrench. But then it actually does get darker," said a GOP pollster who insisted on anonymity in order to speak candidly. ...
"About the only safe Republican Senate seats in '08 are the ones that aren't on the ballot," a GOP operative with extensive experience in Senate races said. "I don't see even the rosiest scenario where we don't end up losing more seats."
Doesn't it just make you feel all tingly inside?
For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country in 2008, check out Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races.