Printed on: December 30, 2012

An explanation owed

Idahoans have not elected Mike Crapo to Congress six times since 1992 because of his private sector successes, charisma or political courage. Crapo has not been elevated to the nation's political elite as a result of a distinguished military career.

Idaho's senior senator has been allowed to practice his nose-to-the grindstone, take-no-chances brand of politics because of who he portrayed himself to be and what his constituents thought he stood for.

The foundation of Crapo's broad support in Idaho has always been character. Ask Idahoans of any political persuasion about Crapo and inevitably you hear about a solid, predictable conservative who could always be counted on to show up, do the best he could and shoot straight with colleagues and constituents.

Certainly, Crapo lost some of that public confidence at 12:45 a.m. Sunday, when after consuming several vodka shots, the 61-year-old Republican from Idaho Falls climbed behind the wheel, ran a red light and was arrested for drunken driving in Alexandria, Va.

Unlike former Sen. Larry Craig, who made himself and his state a national punch line following his arrest in a Minneapolis airport bathroom sex sting, Crapo put others at risk. He also lied. A practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Crapo has said he does not drink alcohol.

To his credit, Crapo acknowledged his mistake, apologized and promised not to repeat the behavior that earned him a misdemeanor DUI charge. That's a good start, especially considering the shameful way Craig handled his guilty plea in Minnesota, tricking Idahoans with his "intent" to resign claim then earning a rebuke from a Senate ethics committee for funneling campaign dollars to his defense attorneys.

Crapo, however, cannot stop with just a quick mea culpa. He needs to provide more information about his actions on the night of his arrest, and his belief system in general. Is there anything else he has been less than honest about?

A DUI is not a career killer. In this case, however, a DUI is a career changer. The shine is off Idaho's Boy Scout politician. In a turnabout nobody could have envisioned, character is now the biggest concern Crapo needs to address.

In that respect, not all is lost. Now, in what must be the most challenging moment of his professional career, Idahoans will, and possibly for the first time, take the true measure of this man.

Taking the safe political route -- dodging questions, keeping his head low and riding out the storm -- would be the actions of a professional politician with something to hide.

Coming home as soon as possible and telling the truth -- no matter what that may be -- is the one way Crapo can show Idahoans he is the man they always believed him to be.

Corey Taule