Thursday, August 30, 2007

The "Jewell Effect" and Larry Craig


Remember Richard Jewell, who died yesterday? Jewell, as The Washington Post's headline says, was "wrongly linked to Olympic bombing":
On July 27, 1996, [Jewell] spotted a crudely made pipe bomb inside a green knapsack near a concert stage [at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park].

At first, he was praised for his decisive handling of the situation. He hurried people away and called for backup. His actions were credited with reducing casualties; one woman died, and 111 people were injured at the scene.

Within three days, Mr. Jewell's status as a hero was challenged after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called him "the focus" of the FBI investigation into the bombing. The FBI neither arrested nor formally charged Mr. Jewell, but the scrutiny that descended on him was invasive and crude....

In October 1996, the FBI cleared Mr. Jewell. In a news conference, he called his 88 days under suspicion a nightmare for him and his mother, with whom he lived near the Olympic park.

"In its rush to show the world how quickly it could get its man, the FBI trampled on my rights as a citizen," he said. "In its rush for the headline that the hero was the bomber, the media cared nothing for my feelings as a human being. In their mad rush to fulfill their own personal agendas, the FBI and the media almost destroyed me and my mother."

The matter of Larry Craig may seem different (after all, he pled guilty to something), but the rush to judge and punish Craig for something he didn't plead guilty to (soliciting a homosexual act) is Jewell-like. Rick Moran, writing at The American Thinker Blog, describes the cynical reaction of Craig's Senate "colleagues":
The humiliation of Senator Larry Craig continues as party leaders in the Senate have stripped him of his status as ranking Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee as well as an Appropriations subcommittee.
In addition, several prominent Senators have called on Craig to resign immediately - a sure sign that the party is nervous about holding on to as many seats as they can after next year's election....

Senator [Norm] Coleman [R-MN] said that Craig was guilty of "conduct unbecoming a Senator" and should resign. Other Republican Senators have privately expressed deep concern that in an election cycle where they must defend 21 seats, Craig's Idaho constituency - among the most reliably Republican in the country - might opt for a Democrat if the stain of the scandal can't be wiped away.
I should note, however, that Moran's reaction is equally cynical:
GOP Senators should probably do an intervention on Craig's behalf and lay out the facts for him in umistakable terms. His effort to overturn his guilty plea will not change anyone's mind about him one iota and only keeps the scandal in front of the voters where both the voters and the party will be constantly reminded of it.

Best he resign and just fade away. [More of the same here: ED.]
Thus effectively conceding a fact that he denies, namely, that he is a homosexual. But who cares about that when there are Senate seats at stake?

UPDATE (08/30/07): The newly released audio tape of Craig's questioning by the cop who arrested him proves absolutely nothing, except that the cop's interrogation technique is as subtle as toilet seat. (I couldn't resist using that rather obscure simile, given the subject.) Either Craig is lying through his teeth (to switch from simile to metaphor in mid-stream) or the cop "saw" what he expected, no, hoped to see: signals of solicitation. The cop was involved in a sting operation, after all.

UPDATE (08/31/07): Relevant commentary here.

UPDATE (09/01/07): Well, Senator Craig has resigned. Here's my take:

Craig has been plagued for decades by accusations that he is homosexual. He chose to plead to disorderly conduct in the hope that the mens' room incident would "go away." It didn't. Now he has chosen to resign his Senate seat in the hope that the furore about his so-called misconduct will go away. The two choices are consistent with what I have seen of Craig (as a public figure): a principled conservative who is articulate about his principles but not combative.

Thus endeth a distinguished career. Let us hope that Craig's successor (probably Idaho's lieutenant governor, Jim Risch, is as conservative as Craig.