The senator went to the bathroom on official government business.
It sounds like the first line in a joke, a juvenile one at that.
But all of us who have spent the past five years watching the farce that is the Larry Craig case know better. We've all learned that the laughable is the serious, the implausible the norm.
In Craig's latest legal shenanigans, the former senator is arguing that it's OK that he used $217,000 in campaign money to fight his arrest in a Minneapolis airport restroom — because the only reason he was in the airport in the first place was because he was traveling from Idaho to Washington, D.C., on Senate business.
Argues Craig's attorney, Andrew Herman: "Not only was the trip itself constitutionally required, but Senate rules sanction reimbursement for any cost relating to a senator's use of a bathroom while on official travel."
Since Herman went there, the overgrown junior high schooler in me has to ask: What kind of costs are incurred during a routine trip to a restroom? And what reporter — going above and beyond in the name of the public's right to know — will file a federal Freedom of Information Act request for the expense forms?
Obligatory bathroom humor aside, let's all at least agree that there isn't anything routine about Craig's June 11, 2007 restroom stop. But wasn't routine was Craig's behavior, unrelated to his Senate job. Craig was arrested and accused of soliciting sex, and after the sting, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.
Craig never consulted with an attorney before he entered his plea. So those who contributed money to Craig's campaign coffers, thinking they were supporting his 2008 re-election campaign, were instead underwriting Craig's long-shot after-the-fact effort to unring the bell of his guilty plea.
Craig is, of course, entitled to pursue whatever kind of quixotic legal avenue he wishes. But you would hope, in the interest of personal responsibility, Craig would cough up his own money to do it. That's what the Federal Election Commission believes, which is why the agency is demanding Craig pay back the $217,000, while seeking fines from the former senator and his former campaign treasurer, Kaye O'Riordan.
The punchline in all of this is that, based on precedent, Craig's legal bathroom beagles actually make a straight-faced, plausible argument. Herman points out that former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, facing allegations of improper behavior with male pages, used campaign funds to defend himself and ultimately clear his name.
So maybe Craig, who hasn't been able to win for losing in the courts since June 2007, may have actually stumbled on a winner this time. But is he doing the right and honorable thing? Not even close. If that matters.
And if Larry Craig ever wonders why he has no legacy befitting a 28-year congressional career — indeed, it seems, no political legacy at all — it's because he spends his time and energy fighting petty points like this. Craig is writing his own postscript, one self-interested and bizarre installment at a time.