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Russert: Conservatives ‘Just Want Senator Craig To Exit, To Leave’

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"Russert: Conservatives ‘Just Want Senator Craig To Exit, To Leave’"

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Yesterday, in his first public statement since his June arrest for “lewd conduct” was revealed, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) took a defiant tone, claiming that he “can still be an effective leader for Idaho,” despite the controversy over his arrest and guilty plea. He also said he would announce a decision this fall about whether he would seek reelection.

But the right wing is already anxious for him to leave office. On NBC’s Nightly News last night, Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said his establishment Republican sources are saying they “just want Senator Craig to exit, to leave”:

Well Brian, I talked to Republicans today, and they have a simple answer. They just want Senator Craig to exit, to leave. [...]

Republicans understand, Brian, the issue of hypocrisy. The notion of a conservative Republican who constantly votes against gay rights, doing something contrary to that. They just don’t want the 2008 election to have those kinds of overtones, the way they did in 2006.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/08/RussertCraig.320.240.flv]

As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, the conservative blogosphere has begun vociferously calling for Craig’s resignation as well.

Grassroots conservatives are “exasperated” by the scandals hitting Washington. “The impact this is having on the grass-roots around the country is devastating,” Republican strategist Scott Reed told the New York Times. “Republicans think the governing class in Washington are a bunch of buffoons who have total disregard for the principles of the party, the law of the land and the future of the country.”

UPDATE: TPMmuckraker’s Paul Kiel notes that including Craig, there are currently 11 conservatives in Congress caught up in corruption and/or sex scandals.

Transcript:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: We’re joined by our Washington bureau chief Tim Russert. And Tim, in plain english, a lot of people looking at this story tonight, are wondering how to think about it.

TIM RUSSERT: Well Brian, I talked to Republicans today, and they have a simple answer. They just want Senator Craig to exit, to leave. Why? Because they believe the Senate seat in Idaho is a safe Republican seat. George Bush carried that state by 67% of the vote. Any Republican can hold on to it, except maybe Senator Craig. And then if he continues to try to hang on, and to brazenly fight the local newspaper, that he’ll become a poster boy, the way Mark Foley became a poster boy in the 2006 eleciton involving a Congressional page scandal. Republicans understand, Brian, the issue of hypocrisy. The notion of a conservative Republican who constantly votes against gay rights, doing something contrary to that. They just don’t want the 2008 election to have those kinds of overtones, the way they did in 2006.

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