While the war in Iraq and the future of the Justice Department are far more important to our nation, I think the GOP should consider that the latest blow — the embarrassment of Sen. Larry Craig — will have quite a lasting impact. (And is any questionable episode in a men's room NOT an embarrassment?)

Unlike his other recently embarrassed Republican colleagues, Sens. Ted Stevens and Pete Domenici, Craig is not tangled in a web of financial or ethical questions. He lands flat on his back in the political dumpster with Sens. David Vitter, who found himself in the phone book of the D.C. Madam, and former Rep. Mark Foley, who sent inappropriate e-mail messages to young boys. They are potent scandals, easy to comprehend and easy to remember. They pile up with the many tales of corruption that have streamed out of the Republican Party since 2005 with alarming regularity.

The story stands to last a long time for Craig as well, as long as he tries to maintain that his plea was not correct or his actions were misconstrued. The ink is dry once you plead guilty to any wrongdoing, and trying to undo it now, under a fierce political spotlight, is not only futile but sad. It's unfortunate that Craig has lost his dignity, trying to explain how his legs must travel to other stalls when he uses a toilet, and that somehow he, a U.S. senator, was bullied into pleading guilty for something he didn't do. But I covered the Senate for years and know firsthand that Craig is no wilting violet. Had he been wrongly accused of anything that day in June it's hard to imagine there would have been anything left of that airport by the time he got through defending himself and his honor.

A Democrat may not be able to take Craig's seat, but Republicans can be sure that Craig's name will find its way into the campaign next year, somewhere in this country. That's a gimme.


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