By: E&P Staff
The announcement by Sen. Larry Craig that he might reconsider his decision to resign made national news late Tuesday. But his local Idaho Statesman in Boise, via the newspaper Roll Call in Washington, D.C., was also covering a different angle.
Apparently he had mistakenly left a phone message on a stranger’s machine last Saturday hinting at this decision. The message was then offered for sale to the Idaho paper, which turned it down, as did Roll Call. But Roll Call ended up airing the message anyway.
In the message, Craig tells a man named “Billy” that his choice of language in his resignation speech that day was deliberate because it left the door open for him to stay in office. Sen. Arlen Spector had unexpectedly urged Craig to fight the charges against him in the men’s room sex case.
The Statesman’s story includes the following.
The recording was offered for sale to the Idaho Statesman, which turned it down because the newspaper’s ethics policy precludes it from paying for information from sources. A Roll Call editor said that publication wouldn’t pay either, but it managed to obtain the recording without charge.
The voice is indeed Craig’s, spokesman Dan Whiting said. Whiting would not say who “Billy” is. On Saturday, Craig announced that he had hired high-profile criminal defense lawyer Billy Martin to help him unravel the guilty plea he filed last month.
Whiting confirmed in an e-mail that his boss “intends to resign on Sept. 30. However, he is fighting these charges, and should he be cleared before then, he may, and I emphasize may, not resign.”
Craig’s move stunned even supporters. Most political insiders believed Craig had finally gotten the message from national Republican leaders, who saw his guilty plea to a humiliating sex-related charge as a blemish on the party’s reputation and its prospects for the 2008 election.
“We didn’t know anything about this,” said a spokesman for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who stood with Craig during the resignation announcement. Otter, a congressman until his election as governor last fall, will pick Craig’s successor.
Craig’s hedging may play poorly even among Idaho supporters who believe Craig was railroaded, observers said.
“I’m not sure how Idahoans will take it if they feel like they were misled by his statement on Saturday,” said Jim Weatherby, a retired political scientist at Boise State University. “He was playing a word game, apparently, with us.”