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Roundtable: Sen. Larry Craig's Arrest

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN LARRY CRAIG, (R) IDAHO: Let me be clear--I am not gay, I never have been gay. Still, without a shred of truth or evidence to the contrary, The Statesman has engaged in this witch hunt.

In pleading guilty I overreacted in Minneapolis, because of the stress The Idaho Statesman's investigation, and the rumors it has fuelled all around Idaho.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: The Statesman, of course, is the newspaper out there in Idaho, and it did publish a long report today after this guilty plea came to light, in which it detailed several instances in which it had found in which Senator Craig had allegedly engaged in apparent attempts at homosexual activity.

The claim of innocence in all of this did not necessarily meet with a ringing response and favorable response. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, said on behalf of the Senate Republican leadership--

"This is a serious matter due to the reported and disputed circumstances and the legal resolution of this serious case. We will recommend that Senator Craig's incident be reported to the Senate Ethics Committee for its review, and reserve the right for further possible investigative action.

Some thoughts on this case now from Bill Sammon, Senior White House Correspondent for The Washington Examiner, Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of "Fortune Magazine," and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, Fox News contributors all.

Bill, do you think that anybody following this matter, knowing of the guilty plea to disorderly conduct in this airport restaurant incident back in June, believes Senator Craig when he says he is not gay and that he did nothing wrong in that case?

BILL SAMMON, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: It is hard to believe when you plead "guilty" to a crime and then say you are innocent, I do not think that passes the laugh test. So I do not know whether or he is gay or not, but I think he is guilty of this crime, and I think I think they are going to hound him until he leaves office ultimately.

HUME: You don't think he can survive this?

SAMMON: I do not think so. I think, ultimately, that seat will stay Republican, because it is a very red state, but I think this scandal could hurt Republicans nationally like Foley scandal hurt Republicans nationally in the '06 elections.

So it has ramifications beyond his state.

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREUA CHIEF OF FORTUNE MAGAZINE: He says he is going to challenge this guilty plea now. Now the odds of this getting overturned are slim to none. So I think what we are seeing now is a man who is trying to convince his friends and his family and his colleagues that he is not gay, as he has said many times to The Statesman, the newspaper, as well as we saw it just now

I think we are also seeing on Capitol Hill, from the Foley scandal, memories of the Foley scandal, which really hurt the Republicans--

HUME: Remember how late in the game the Foley scandal came. That came with him on the ballot late in the election season. We are a year out from that now.

EASTON: Yes, but they, jumped on that. The Republican leadership today referred this to the Ethics Committee, and they are trying to be above board and be very clear about it.

HUME: Doing damage control for themselves.

EASTON: Exactly.

But when he says he hopes--when Craig says he hopes this is going to go away with the record cleared--even if he is lying, that actually makes it even worse than if he had been originally stuck with a guilty plea.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The Foley scandal is what is informing the Republican leadership's action. It is true that it happened late in the campaign, but it had a poisonous effect. Everybody assumes the election '06 was all about Iraq. But it was tainted by the corruption charges, many of which had not really stuck until the Foley incident happened.

And I think it cast a pall over the Republicans in the House, and I think it contributed heavily to the loss of both Houses. And the Republican leadership in the Senate, facing a tough year next year--the Iraq war is an issue, the president's unpopularity is an issue, the instability in housing is an issue--they do not want to have this hanging on them. And they want to get rid of this Senator.

This was a really tough statement by McConnell, which, essentially, was a shot across the bow, and says, leave us, now, before this becomes an incident, because there is no way out for Craig.

HUME: Did Craig have any other option today, short of resigning? Could he have acknowledged that he is gay? If course, he is still married, he has children, he has had, obviously, from whatever other things he may have done, he has obviously had a heterosexual life. Did he have a choice here, do you think?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, these are such sad and pathetic incidents that you really do not know how to react. I do not know what political choice he had. If he wants to stay alive politically, I guess this was his only option.

The problem is, his political career is suffering death by ridicule. It is not even the substance of the charge. It is the details of the police report, and it is this invention of what will always be remembered as "the wide stance defense."

HUME: You mean that he said that one of the reasons why he may have actually bumped the foot or touched the foot of the officer in the adjoining stall was that he said he had a wide stance when he went to the bathroom.

SAMMON: I am 6'7", and I don't have a stance that wide where your foot goes into the next stall.

But here is the thing, I think it is worth noting that there is a double standard when it comes to covering sex scandals for Democrats and Republicans. We saw it in the Foley scandal.

Here is a guy, as reprehensible as what did--he sent inappropriate e- mail messages to a 17-year-old male underage Congressional page. Congressman Jerry Studs, years earlier, actually engaged in sex.

HUME: But he had not been, nor had his party been death on the gay agenda the way the Republicans are.

SAMMON: But that is another false argument, this business about hypocrisy. It is possible to be gay and to not necessarily believe in gay marriage. You can be gay and believe that marriage is reserved for a man and woman.

HUME: Yes, but you cannot be gay and say you are not gay.

SAMMON: That is true, too. But I am saying Jerry Studs actually engaged in sex with a 17-year-old underage male Congressional page. He was reelected five times. He got a standing ovation from his constituents.

And when he passed away at the height of the Foley scandal, when everybody was going nuclear on Foley, there were all these gushing obits about his courage as a gay congressmen. There is a double standard. It doesn't excuse Craig, but there is--

HUME: The case is that one could hardly imagine Studs being reelected repeatedly in Idaho.

EASTON: I was just going to say, let's say Idaho, here. There is this hypocrisy factor. And the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, faced that same problem when he had his problems last year. That is a real issue for conservatives Republicans.

KRAUTHAMMER: It is not hypocrisy, it is humiliation.

HUME: When we come back we will talk about the president's speech to the American Legion on Iraq and Iran. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The most important and immediate way to counter the ambitions of al-Qaeda and Iran, and other forces of instability and terror is to win the fight in Iraq.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT: Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap with the help of neighbors and regional friends, like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Two strikingly different views of what is likely to happen in Iraq, and what Iran is likely to do about it. Iran talking about filling the gap created by an American defeat. The president vowing that A) that won't happen, and B) that the best way to fight Iran, or combat Iran, is to win in Iraq.

What about it, Charles? Is this a case that can now be made?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I think there is a huge change in American strategy underway as a result of the surge. We have had two enemies in the war in Iraq, which is the Sunni insurgency on the one hand, and the Shiite extremists on the other.

We have had unexpected success against the Sunni insurgency as a result of the co-opting of the Sunni leaders and tribes. And as that insurgency is in some ways tamped down, and as the Sunnis join us in the war against al-Qaeda in Iraq, the guns of the American military machine are going to turn against the Shiite extremists.

And that's, I think, what is actually happening on the ground here. The Maliki government is seeing it. It is not exactly happy about that. It has allies among the Shiites extremists. And the Iranians, who are behind the Shiite extremists, are also unhappy about this.

The clash is coming, and the question is, which way will the Maliki government go--towards Iran or towards us?

EASTON: And that is the big problem for the president, of course, is you can military progress without, necessarily, political progress. And that is, I think, going to be--

HUME: You are talking about national political progress, as opposed to grass roots political progress, which has kind of come out of nowhere and astonished everybody.

EASTON: Right. You have some Sheikhs allying themselves, and so on. So, yes. But, nationally, that is the problem for the president.

It is interesting, though, today, I thought Ahmadinejad did favor to President Bush when he said there is a huge power vacuum here, and suggesting that they are going to fill it, because the one thing that unites players politically, when you talk about regional players, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel--

HUME: Yes, he spoke of Saudi Arabia as his ally.

EASTON: Right. I thought that was quite humorous, actually.

But the one thing that unites and inspires and animates them and the Europeans is the fear that a nuclear-armed Iran will expand its power in that region.

SAMMON: I agree. I think Ahmadinejad said essentially the same thing that Bush said today.

Bush was talking about the Sunni and the Shiite streams of terrorism, and saying that they will go to war with each other if we pull out prematurely. And Ahmadinejad is saying that once this power void happens, not only will we come in with the Shiites, but the Saudi's will come in with the Sunnis. He is saying exactly what Bush is saying.

So, if you are a Democrat, and you want to end this war, that is bad news to have Ahmadinejad openly telegraph that we are going to fill the void. That is akin to us openly telegraphing a date certain for withdrawal.

It was foolish of Ahmadinejad to say that. It bolstered Bush's case. It makes it harder for Democrats to pull out of this thing next month.

HUME: Is that how it will play out Charles? The last 10 seconds here, sorry.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think the Democrats are going to be worried pursuing a rapid withdrawal for those reasons, and also because of successes that we are having on the ground. And we would abort that and they would pay a heavy penalty, I think.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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