By Jason Horowitz and Mary Pat Flaherty
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The office of Mike Crapo would like the three-term Republican senator to be known for his work on the powerful banking committee, for his participation as a member of the Gang of Eight on big-budget concerns and for his efforts to resolve a decades-old land management issue in Idaho's Owyhee County.
Instead, Crapo has entered the public's consciousness as the Mormon senator who who drank vodka tonics alone in his Washington apartment on the night of Dec. 22, climbed into a 1999 white Jeep and took a half-hour drive past the monuments and into Alexandria, Va., where he ran a red light and then scored a .11 on a breath test. His arresting officer noted bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and an odor of alcohol.
On Friday morning, the 61-year-old Idahoan, wearing a grey suit with a powder-blue power tie, took a seat with a staffer and other traffic violation defendants at Alexandria District Court. Called before the judge, he pleaded guilty to drunk driving and received a suspended sentence of 180 days in jail, a $250 fine, a year's suspension of his driver's license and enrollment in an alcohol safety program. The hearing lasted 10 minutes.
Crapo's real punishment will last much longer, and it is linked less to the severity of his transgression than the degree to which his crime clashed with the squeaky-clean image of Mormon politicians that Mitt Romney personified over the past year. ("I tasted a beer and tried a cigarette once as a wayward teenager and never did it again," Romney told People magazine.) If Crapo has done himself lasting damage, it is most likely to be with Idaho voters, especially the quarter who are Mormon. They may question whether they know the man they have repeatedly elected, or whether the Potomac had poisoned their senator's principles. "He held himself up to be a certain kind of guy: straight cut, Eagle Scout, family man, former Mormon Bishop," said a Dec. 30 editorial in the Idaho State Journal. "Your reputation as a faithful Mormon conservative has been blown to smithereens."