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GOP colleagues urge Craig to resign in bathroom arrest; White House 'disappointed' in case

GOP colleagues urge Craig to resign in bathroom arrest; White House 'disappointed' in case

Political support was eroding by the hour for a Republican U.S. senator implicated in allegations of lewd behavior by police who arrested him in a public rest room.
Fellow members in Congress of President George W. Bush's Republican Party demanded that Sen. Larry Craig resign. Party leaders pushed him unceremoniously from senior posts on legislative committees.
Bush's spokesmen expressed disappointment, too, and said not a word of support for the 62-year-old lawmaker, who pleaded guilty this month to a charge stemming from an undercover police operation in an airport men's room.
Craig "represents the Republican Party," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, who became Wednesday the first in a steadily lengthening list of party members of Congress to urge resignation.
Craig's is the latest in a series of scandals involving Republicans that threaten to tarnish the party's reputation further. Polls showed that ethical lapses by Republicans played a role in allowing Democrats to win control of Congress during last year's legislative elections.
Now Republicans are trying to curb the power of the new Democratic majority in Congress and generate some enthusiasm for Republican candidates in the 2008 elections at a time when Republican President Bush, is at a record low in public opinion polls, mainly due to his handling of the war In Iraq.
Craig's spokesman would not comment on the calls for his departure from Congress. "They have a right to express themselves," said Sidney Smith. He said he had heard no discussion of a possible resignation.
Craig said Tuesday he had committed no wrongdoing and should not have pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. He said he had only recently retained a lawyer to advise him in the case that threatens to write an ignominious end to a lifetime in public office.
Sens. John McCain and Norm Coleman joined Hoekstra in urging Craig to step down, as did Rep. Jeff Miller. Others joined them as the day wore on.
McCain, a candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2008, spoke out in an interview with CNN. "My opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, you shouldn't serve. That's not a moral stand. That's not a holier-than-thou. It's just a factual situation."
Coleman said in a written statement, "Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator."
For a second consecutive day, Republican Senate leaders stepped in, issuing a statement that said Craig had "agreed to comply with leadership's request" to temporarily give up his posts on important committees. He has been the top Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee as well as on subcommittees for two other panels.
"This is not a decision we take lightly, but we believe this is in the best interest of the Senate until this situation is resolved by the ethics committee," said the statement, issued in the name of Sen. Mitch McConnell, the party leader in the Senate, and others.
On Tuesday, the leaders jumped in ahead of Craig's appearance before television cameras in Idaho to announce they had asked the ethics committee to look into the case.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Wednesday, "We are disappointed in the matter," without specifying exactly what was causing the discomfort.
He said he hoped the ethics committee would do its work swiftly, "as that would be in the best interests of the Senate and the people of Idaho."
In Craig's home state, Republican Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter said his longtime friend "is an honorable man, and I am confident that Larry Craig will do what is best for him and his family and the state of Idaho."
For the most part, Democrats studiously avoided involvement with an unfolding Republican scandal.
"We at least ought to hear his side of the story.," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, like McCain a presidential contender who spoke on CNN.
Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn said his party stood to gain. "All of these people who (are) holier than thou are now under investigations. ... I think the Republican Party will find itself in a great peril next year," he said.
McCain's call for a resignation was the first among the party's presidential rivals.
Sen. Sam Brownback, also seeking the White House, said Craig's declaration that he had pleaded guilty to make the issue go away "doesn't work in these jobs." Still, the Kansan said it was premature to call for Craig to resign.
That wasn't how it was seen by Coleman, a senator facing a potentially difficult re-election contest next year, or by Hoekstra, who signaled a concern about the impact on the party generally.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Hoekstra called Craig's explanations "not credible."
"I think it's important for Republicans to step out right now and say, 'No, this behavior is not going to be tolerated,'" he said.
Hoekstra, a conservative, said he reached his decision on his own and had not consulted with party leaders.
"It's not a judgment on gay rights or anything like that. This is about leadership and setting a standard that the American people and your colleagues in the Republican Party can feel good about."
Other Republicans dwelt on Craig's guilty plea, but Hoekstra's mention of homosexuality reflected a separate concern.
"I am not gay. I never have been gay," the senator said on Tuesday, but that stood in apparent contradiction to the police report that led to his guilty plea, submitted on Aug. 1.
Craig was arrested on June 11 in the airport men's room at Minneapolis, Minnesota, after an undercover officer observed conduct that he said was "often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct."
Craig was read his rights, fingerprinted and required to submit to a mug shot at the time of his arrest.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and signed papers that included a notation that the court would not accept a guilty plea from anyone who claimed to be innocent.
Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, an openly homosexual member of the House of Representatives, said Craig was a hypocrite on gay rights issues, but he did not think the Republican senator should resign.
"This is the hypocrisy _ it's to deny legal equality to gay people, but then to engage in gay behavior," Frank said.
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Associated Press writer Todd Dvorak contributed to this story from Boise, Idaho. Matthew Daly, Ken Thomas and Andrew Miga contributed from Washington, and Jim Davenport from Columbia, South Carolina.


Updated : 2020-12-03 02:27 GMT+08:00