Tuesday’s "Good Morning America" used the arrest of Senator Larry Craig in a men’s bathroom as an excuse to again herald the end of the Republican Party. Guest co-host Bill Weir teased a story on the Idaho legislator by wondering, "Is the GOP losing its grip?" Reporter David Kerley saw this as a case of Republican hypocrisy. He pointedly observed that "Craig is a conservative who lists among his goals to defend and strengthen the traditional values of the American family."
In early summer, the ABC morning show found another reason to predict doom for the GOP. Co-host Chris Cuomo, introduced a June 25 story on new polling data by claiming that the Republican candidates were "hitting some serious bumps in the road." He then ominously added, "So now the question is, can any of them beat the eventual Democratic nominee?"
Following David Kerley’s August 28 piece on Senator Craig, "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos briefly discussed the issue with guest GMA co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas. At one point, Stephanopoulos appeared to find the whole situation amusing. Vargas asked the former Clinton aide why Craig pled guilty. Stephanopoulos responded with a laugh:
George Stephanopoulos: "Uh, that was a big mistake, I guess. [Laughs] I think, the evidence, if you read the police report, and we’re not going to go into the details of a police report, it does seem like he was engaging in some kind of solicitation."
NBC’s "Today" also saw the scandal as evidence of impending ruin for the Republicans. An onscreen graphic called it a "conservative crisis."
A transcript of the August 28 piece, which aired at 7:02 and a partial transcript of the interview with Stephanopoulos follow:
Bill Weir: "This morning, back-to-back bombshells. First the attorney general's surprise resignation and now a senator's stunning guilty plea after being accused of lewd behavior. Is the GOP losing its grip?"
Bill Weir: "But first, let’s get right to our top stories this Tuesday. Another high-profile resignation and another congressman stung by a sex scandal. Our correspondents are live in Washington covering all the angles on these two political bombshells, but we begin with ABC’s David Kerley on Capitol Hill. David, good morning."
David Kerley: "Good morning, Bill. Idaho senior senator says police got it wrong and he made a mistake pleading guilty. But the allegations by a police officer are disturbing. And if this case grows, it could impact the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. He's a three-term senator, a member of the singing senators. But just three weeks ago, Larry Craig pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, charges that came out of an investigation into lewd behavior in a Minneapolis airport men's bathroom. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, an undercover police officer, investigating complaints of sexual activity, says the senator, in a stall next to him, tapped his foot, a signal, the policeman says, used by those, quote, ‘wishing to engage in lewd contact.’ And then the senator reportedly further signaled by swiping his hand under the divider. Senator Craig was arrested. He told police that, quote, ‘They were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct.’ But his court documents show a guilty plea was entered at the county courthouse August 8. Craig was told to may more than $1,500 in fines and fees and placed on one-year unsupervised probation. This morning, in a statement on his website, Craig says he shouldn't have pled guilty and should have hired an attorney. Trouble for a senator facing re-election next year."
Senator Larry Craig (R-ID): "Persons who are unmarried, as I am, by choice–"
Kerley: "25 years ago, before he was married, Craig attacked questions about his personal life."
Craig: "–have always been the subject of innuendos, gossip and false accusations. I think this is despicable."
Kerley: "Craig is a conservative who lists among his goals to defend and strengthen the traditional values of the American family. But his seat, once considered a lock, may now be in jeopardy."
Tim Groseclose (Prof, political science, UCLA): "Larry Craig does has a serious problem. The first thing that he's going to face may be calls from his own party to resign."
Kerley: "And the fallout has already started. Larry Craig was the chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Idaho. The Romney campaign is saying this morning that ‘Senator Craig has stepped down from his role. He did not want to be a distraction and we accept his decision.’ Senator Craig has not said whether he will seek re-election. Bill?"
Elizabeth Vargas: "In the meantime, we heard from David Kerley’s reporting that Senator Craig of Iadaho said he made a mistake charges in which police suggest lewd behavior in an airport bathroom. Why then did he plead guilty?"
George Stephanopoulos: "Uh, that was a big mistake, I guess.[Laughs] I think, the evidence, if you read the police report, and we’re not going to go into the details of a police report, it does seem like he was engaging in some kind of solicitation."
Vargas: "But did he feel he couldn't withstand, sort of, scrutiny and public fight?"
Stephanopoulos: "He was trying to keep it all quiet, wanted to handle it himself. You know, he's been fighting these kinds of allegations all the way back since 1982, successful beat them back. But I think now that this has come out, he is going to be under tremendous pressures, already is under tremendous pressure not to run again. Republicans are worried that they're facing charge of hypocrisy and double standards. You saw it with another senator, David Vitter of Louisiana, also caught up in something like this earlier in the summer."