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Larry’s Delicate Condition

msnbc-craig-resignthumbnail.jpgRemember how the Senate Republicans had threatened that they might hold all sorts of gaudy dirt-dishing ethics hearings designed to shame Larry Craig into bailing so that they could have Idaho’s Republican governor pick his replacement?

Turns out that, as I’d expected, these aren’t exactly a sure thing:

Facing untimely resignations, an unpopular war and a troubling 2008 election landscape, Senate Republicans didn’t need another headache this week. But they got one anyway when Sen. Larry Craig vowed Thursday to serve out the last 15 months of his term, despite a court ruling that left intact his guilty plea in a sex sting operation.

The Idaho Republican’s decision gives his GOP colleagues two unpleasant choices. They can resume pressuring him to leave, and risk being seen as disloyal politicians who go harder on alleged homosexual misdeeds than on heterosexual wrongdoings.

Or they can basically ignore him for months, and endure more TV comics’ taunts about a conservative senator convicted in a case involving public bathroom stalls.

Judging from comments in the first hours after Craig’s announcement, Republican senators were unsure exactly where to land. Outright confrontation with Craig, however, seems unlikely.

Now, why, pray tell, would that be? Craig’s lawyer gives us a hint:

Craig’s lawyer Stanley Brand said the Senate traditionally has shied away from disciplining members for misdemeanors unrelated to their duties and might be unwise to cross that line now.

“Are they going to begin to take up misdemeanor cases as a matter of course?” Brand said Friday on NBC’s “Today” show. “That’s going to put a lot of other people in serious jeopardy down the road.”

And again, there’s that little matter of the Brent Wilkes case — and the subpoena that Larry Craig will find much easier to fight if he remains a sitting Senator.

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