GOP stands by Craig response

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The Senate Republican campaign chairman said his party responded properly to outgoing Sen. Larry E. Craig’s sexual-misconduct case and rejected Democratic claims of a double standard for dealing with other embattled lawmakers.

“Larry had admitted guilt. This wasn’t like he was just charged with something, especially something that he denied,” said Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, during an appearance yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.”

“That’s one of the things I’m proudest about our leadership is the swift action,” he said. “It was best for himself, best for his family and best for the institution of the Senate.”

Mr. Craig of Idaho said he intended to resign from the Senate Sept. 30 after it was reported last week that in June, he pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct in a men’s restroom after a police sex sting at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

Meanwhile, the Senate Democratic campaign chairman said Mr. Craig’s arrest showed Republicans are not serious about combating corruption within their own ranks.

“What the American people are looking for is not a blame game, but who is trying to clean it up,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said on “This Week.” “For six years, there was no ethics reform.”

Despite pleading guilty, Mr. Craig said that he did nothing wrong and that he intends to fight the charges.

Some Democrats have accused the Republicans of hypocrisy for pressuring Mr. Craig out while not also calling for the departure of Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican.

Mr. Vitter has not been charged with a crime but did recently acknowledge his telephone number was on a list belonging to an escort service.

“I say there’s a double standard,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, told “Fox News Sunday.” “Secondly, I don’t think they’ll ask him [Vitter] to resign because, of course, he’d be replaced by a Democrat. It’s easier to ask Larry Craig to resign because he’d be replaced by a Republican.”

Mr. Craig did receive some unexpected support from Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

“I’d like to see Larry Craig seek to withdraw the guilty plea and fight the case,” Mr. Specter of Pennsylvania said during his own “Fox News Sunday” appearance. “I’d like to see him fight the case because I think he could be vindicated.”

However, it is widely expected that Mr. Craig will resign regardless of how his legal appeal plays out. Presidential counselor and former Republican Party chairman Ed Gillespie agreed that Mr. Craig’s admission of guilt made the difference.

“The fact is that Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime, and therefore was convicted of a crime. Senator Vitter has not been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. So there’s a pretty big distinction here,” Mr. Gillespie told “Fox News Sunday.”

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