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The Reach of a Scandal

Idaho Senator Larry Craig is already feeling the political consequences of his guilty plea to a charge of disorderly conduct in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. Calls for his resignation and an ethics investigation, questions about the Republican Party's ability to hold his seat in the usually very-red state and discussions of the candidates who may try to replace him have all bubbled to the surface since the story broke on Monday.

But how will the scandal play politically? Is it a definite negative for the GOP and a plus for Democrats? Or will it have some other outcome? A lot depends on how the two parties handle the scandal.

With controversies like Craig's, a perception of an indecisive or cynical response by a party can sour the public's outlook, as it did last fall when former Florida congressman Mark Foley was embroiled in a sex scandal, but perceived overreaction can also hurt, as Republicans found when they impeached Bill Clinton for perjury in a sexual harassment case.

Last fall at the height of campaign season, Foley's electronic trysts with a House page came to light, raising questions about the Republican Party's stewardship of Congress's ethical standards. Beyond the details of the scandal itself, it was further revealed that the party's leadership knew about Foley's misconduct months earlier and did not act.

This lack of action plus dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and the nation's economy contributed to the Republicans' loss of both chambers of Congress on Election Day. As the scandal unfurled, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 10 percent of registered voters said "ethics in government" would be the single most important issue in their vote for Congress and just 31 percent said they trusted Republicans to handle the issue.

But no scandal impacts only one side. In that same poll, 70 percent said there was no difference between the two parties on ethics and honesty. And while 64 percent said that the Republican leadership in Congress tried to cover up for Foley, two-thirds said Democrats would have done the same and 63 percent said the Democrats were using Foley's misconduct for political gain.

The Republican Party's image suffered more than that of Democrats, however. In October, Gallup (subscription required) measured a 35 percent favorability rating for Republicans, the lowest since December 1998, when the public's disfavor was tied to the party's handling of another sex scandal -- Bill Clinton's involvement with intern Monica Lewinsky.

At the time, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that six in 10 Americans disapproved of the House vote to impeach the president and about the same percentage felt the vote was based more on partisan politics than the facts of the case.

After Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) (who was set to succeed Newt Gingrich as speaker of the house in the midst of the controversy over Lewinsky) resigned his office due to an extramarital affair, a whopping eight in 10 Americans said that too much attention was being paid to the dalliances of elected officials. Ironically for Livingston, 74 percent said the increased attention was the Republican Party's fault.

There are, of course, details unique to each scandal of this kind, like the parties involved and exact nature of the accusations. The national political atmosphere also has an effect. When the Lewinsky affair came to light Bill Clinton enjoyed relatively high approval ratings and the country was enjoying a time of relative peace and prosperity. The Craig scandal arrives during a time of war and political division in the country -- and during a period of low approval ratings for Craig's party.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  August 29, 2007; 3:42 PM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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Comments

I have heard rumors for years that the good Senator was "Gay" and to tell you the truth I do not want to know what goes on in the bedroom of others. I am devorced have one child and really believe that MLK's quote "evaluate people by the Values they Represent and not by the color of their skin, (sexual orentation)" I know I paraphrased the quote.

Posted by: Mark Arneson | August 29, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

hmmmm....Hoisted on one's own pitard!

Posted by: Dave R | August 29, 2007 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Apparently rumors regarding Craig's homosexuality have "plagued" and followed him for years. So there is no chance that his own party members were unaware of the total hypocracy of his public political stances and how he lived his own life.

The problem they have is not that he is gay - but that he got caught and placed them all in a bad light. The party that fights like madmen against homosexuals, homosexual marriages, etc. is rather fuzzy when it comes to themselves it seems.

Posted by: Katy | August 29, 2007 8:22 PM | Report abuse

So, if you are not guilty, hwy do you plead guilty???

Tried & Sentenced, a mercy plea not to find out what REALLY has been going on since 1982.

Family Values, SHEESH!!!

A crock of DUNG

Posted by: smtpgirl08 | August 29, 2007 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Yet again a very important lesson for the Republicans. Stop wearing your moral superiority on your sleeves. Who among us is without sin. One can surely ask for better morality on average of the country's citizens. But to wear it like a badge of honor especially to smear the Democrats is always going to backfire.

Posted by: B K Raj | August 30, 2007 8:42 AM | Report abuse

For those that scream the loudest denial are actually attempting to cover up the real truth. I definitely feel sorry for his wife.

It amazes me the GOP doesn't move fast enough to force Senator Craig to resign, but they sure knew how to lead a witch hunt to impeach former President Clinton for lying about a blow job that he received from a consenting adult? I say Craig's actions are far more disgusting--Who knows if he ever washed his hands after his "hot encounters" in the mens room!

Posted by: Alexandria, Va | August 30, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I could not read beyond the third paragraph of this blog, because that's how far I got before stumbling across an inaccurate statement. Bill Clinton's impeachment was not related to sexual harassment, but to lying to a grand jury about his consensual extra-marital affair with Monica Lewinsky.

You really have to watch what you read these days, when facts are not researched and lies are given credence in an attempt to "balance out" the truth. This is not journalism. I'm surprised it's on the Washington Post Web site.

Posted by: Musicocoa | August 30, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

That is such balony to say that Clinton was impeached only because he lied under testimony. Technically, that was the charge, and that is how it was set up by Republicans. They had Linda Tripp running back and forth between the offices of "Independent" Prosecutor Ken Starr (appointed by a right wing judge after meeting with a right wing congressman) and Paul Jones' lawyers, who were of course funded by right wing crazies. Hillary was correct about the right wing conspiracy, and some day we'll know a lot more about what followed..."election" 2000 and the last six years.

Posted by: Jerry R | August 30, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I find it interesting that in a speach the Pres.Bush(wacker)made when he was asked if he had seen the movie "Broke Back Cowboy" he said he hadn't but knew all about that kind of thing. Is it ??POSSIBLE?? he actually told the !!!TRUTH!!! God Bless America.

Posted by: judi m | August 30, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Too often we forget that politians are human, and as such, are prone to human frailties.

Less often, do politians remember, that one must practice what one preaches, lest they in their judging, be judged.

Posted by: jchinablue | August 30, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans eat theirs alive. The Democrats defend theirs. Let's face it. All the Democrats that have involved themselves in unethical behavior in the Clinton administration were all covered up even to this day. This includes the rumors about Mrs. Clinton. There are elected officials at all levels of government, public and federal, that would find themselves out of office if they were Republicans. Double Standard. This story is four months old. Why now? To cover up the Mexican Trucker driving into the United States. A trespasser becoming a Peace Ambassador from Mexico to the United States. America had better wakeup and soon. Now that the border issue, iIlligal immigration, the latest recall, non-enforcement of laws to protect these United States are off the front page, we are spending our time over SEX, again. Have we reached the point that live and let live as long as it does not effect me or my family is the issue? What's on TV. Opps, my phone is ringing. Nice tie. Where did you get your hair done. Wake up American and start paying attention. Howmany times will you go to the same cashier if they keep short changing you everytime. Stop voting your emotions and use your head. One issue voting is killing this country from the inside. Power is not worth losing Faith in our System. Virtue lost makes slaves. Reject handouts. There is a right to fail and not run to the government to bail you out. There is a cancer in this country because of coverups and political correctness. Enough is enough. It will get worse if we continue to go down this road and continue to accept more lies and we lose Freedom. What was the INTENT. When he leaves office will this issue will not go away. I have my doubts. Do not wave at any car because your intent may be taken the wrong way, but you will be guilty by this standard. Intent is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Douglas Holbert, Yuma AZ | August 31, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Larry Craig may not be a gay person and in fact I have much more respect for gays than for what Mr. Craig is and that is a PERVERT, a good ole pervert who does believe he is not gay but likes to live on the dark side and take chances in men's rooms. He is far worse because because he is playing games and tries to use his power position and tax payers money to play them. Now he is reconsidering his resignation, well I say bring it on and let the real truth come to light Senator Pervert. Let's go back in your history and dig up everything that can be found and I have read that there is a lot of dirt that could surface. Let's just see just how perverted this guy is? Personally I have had enough of the hypocracy of the religious right and the discredited obstructionist GOP. God save us from this disgusting bunch of monsters and perverts, including Rep Foley and Sen. Vitter, good examples I might say of all this group of guys has to offer as they bow to our murderer & chief. I feel touched by slime just writing this, excuse me why I go bath to remove the stench of the GOP from me.

Posted by: Joann W | September 4, 2007 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Hey Craig plead guilty to disorderly conduct not anything else. Why doesnt anybody investigate the relationship between slanderous Idaho Statesman Reporter Dan Popkey and the rent a pig from the airport. Doesn't anybody read details in the USA or are all illiterate? Craig was framed up.

Posted by: md clement | September 15, 2007 1:22 AM | Report abuse

The alleged behavior of Larry Craig, in the Minnesota restroom, is creepy and would disturb the majority of mens restroom users, especially young boys. Although I have never been in Minnesota, it is also difficult to imagine that a police sergeant does not have higher priority crimes to investigate. Perhaps there is a pressing local problem, with unsolicited sexual advances, or sexual molestation, in Minnesota restrooms. It is still unclear to many whether a crime occured. I hope Larry Craig has his day in court, and the truth is revealed.

The hypocrisy of Larry Craig, unfortunately is far from uncommon, in the Republican Party.

By focusing excessive attention on Larry King, attention is diverted from far more serious forms of Republican hypocrisy, including cutting funds for education, and vetoing childrens health insurance, while Leave No Child A Dime Bush claims to be a Compassionate Consedrvative who supports education and family values.

Even more dangerous, Bush has squandered 1.2 Trillion dollars, in Iraq, claiming he is protecting our nation from terrorists, while he leaves our borders unsecured, and has failed to determine who is already inside our borders.

Bush also selected a former Enron attorney, Alberto Gonzales, as our highest law enforcement officer.

We need to refocus the nations attention from pathethic hypocrites, like Larry Craig, to the most dangerous, destructive hypocrite, in the United States: George Bush.

Posted by: clifwest | September 23, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Cool post! I'm add to bookmark... Autor what is youre name?
Realy best blog...

Posted by: GlavMed | November 2, 2007 9:45 PM | Report abuse

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