Craig Will Resign (UPDATED)

From CNN:

Embattled Republican Sen. Larry Craig will announce his resignation from the Senate Saturday, a GOP source in Idaho said Friday.

[…]

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday called Craig’s conduct “unforgivable” and acknowledged that many in his caucus believe Craig should resign.

[…]

Sen. John McCain, a GOP presidential candidate, has called Craig’s case “disgraceful.” Another Republican senator, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, has said Craig pleaded guilty to “a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator.”

I find Craig’s treatment by his fellow Republicans extraordinarily interesting. He has been attacked, criticized, thrown under the bus and told to resign, all because of what amounts to a relatively minor misdemeanor charge.

As I wrote before, Republicans who did far worse things have been coddled by the GOP, staunchly defended and protected by the highest echelons of Republican power. Just look atDavid Vitter and his hookers, or Ted Stevens’ corruption probe.
Yet, Larry Craig–hypocrite that he is–gets thrown under the bus for a comparatively minor charge. The reason why is clear–Craig is gay. He got caught trying to pick up men, and the GOP panicked–they know their radical right-wing agenda can’t tolerate homosexuality. Infidelity, corruption, dishonesty, lawbreaking–all of those are fine, homosexuality is not.

In the end, Craig has become a victim of the same anti-gay culture he helped perpetuate. There is some poetic justice in that. But I still think it’s sad that a man would have to live a lie, lest he lose his career simply for being who he is.

UPDATE: Mcjoan at Daily Kos has an excellent rundown of Craig’s potential replacements.  Sources are saying that Idaho Governor Butch Otter will probably pick his Lieutenant Governor, Jim Risch, to fill the seat.

Otter and Risch are political rivals, but in this context the appointment makes sense–Risch gets to move out of the thankless, low-profile Lieutenant Governorship, while Otter pre-empts a future political battle by giving Risch a prime position and buying his loyalty.

Still, there’s always the potential for a political curveball to get thrown our way.

Warner Out, Warner In?

     

Senator John Warner (R-VA) is retiring:

Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, said Friday he won’t run for re-election.

“I say that my work and service to Virginia as a senator will conclude upon the 6th of January, 2009, when I finish … my career of a then 30 years in the United States Senate,” said Warner, 80.

[…]

Last week, Warner called on President Bush to start the process of bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq in September.

Warner opposed Bush’s January decision to send nearly 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq. But he has so far also opposed Democratic efforts to force Bush to start bringing U.S. troops home.

He and the current Armed Services chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, recently returned from a visit to Baghdad with harsh words for Iraqi Prime Minister’s Nuri al-Maliki government.

[…]

According to the most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, Warner’s campaign committee had $734,494 on hand as of June 30 and had raised a little more than $72,000 in the second quarter of 2007.

This has been a long time coming. Warner has gone from being one of the most influential and respected members of the majority party to being a member of the minority, often at odds with his fellow party members.

He stopped towing the GOP line on Iraq several months ago, when he opposed President Bush’s surge. Since then, Warner has been criticized by war supporters for ditching the White House talking points in favor of acknowledging the hard truths on the ground.

His retirement puts his Senate seat in play. Virginia has become a purple state, especially after Tim Kaine beat Jerry Kilgore for the Governor’s mansion in 2005 and Jim Webb knocked off the massively-popular George Allen by several thousand votes this past November.

Warner’s heir-apparent is Northern Virginia Congressman Tom Davis, who has a massive amount of money on-hand—$1.05 million, according to the FEC. Yet, he may face a bruising primary battle with former Virginia Governor and failed Presidential candidate Jim Gilmore, who had announced his intention to run for Warner’s seat if the Senator retired.

Of course, the 800-pound donkey in the room is former Virginia Governor Mark Warner (no relation to Senator Warner). There has been a lot of speculation about Warner’s political plans since he turned down a run for the Presidency 10 months ago—many people have suggested he plans to either run for Governor again in 2009 or become the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. Mark Warner has voiced his intention to return to public office, and I’m sure he’s spent at least some time thinking about becoming the next Senator from Virginia.

If he chooses to run for Senate, the seat is basically his for the taking. Warner left office with massive approval ratings after turning Virginia from one of the nation’s worst states into one of it’s best. Neither Davis nor Gilmore could stand much of a chance against him.

So, the ball’s in Mark’s court. Will he step up and run for Senate, nearly guaranteeing a Democratic pickup? Or will he set his sights elsewhere—and, in that case, who else will step up to the plate?

All in all, it’s going to be an interesting year.

The Harsh Reality

From the BBC, via Democracy Arsenal:

Gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles had forced their way past checkpoints and appeared to be trying to take control of the area around the shrines.

As security forces fought back, several hotels were set ablaze.

The BBC’s Mike Wooldridge in Baghdad says various sources blamed the attack on the Mehdi Army. In Karbala, the police are linked to their political rivals, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC).

In apparently related violence between the two groups in Baghdad, at least five people were killed.

It comes just two days after Mr Maliki announced a deal between Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurdish politicians aimed at building national unity.

[Emphasis added]

This is just another incidence of sectarian violence in Iraq, right?

Wrong.

Both the groups above are of the same sect—they’re both Shiite groups, yet they’re warring with one another.

Many war supporters like to simplify the conflict, dividing all the various groups into two camps—the good guys and the bad guys.

But this story is indicative of the fact that it doesn’t always work that way—the violence in Iraq is exceptionally complex, involving numerous groups with various ideologies and fluid, shifting affiliations.

This incident—as well as the rest of the violence in Iraq—undermines much of the exaggerated talk of political progress in Iraq.  Remember, just three weeks ago the last of the Sunnis left the Cabinet, leaving the Sunnis with no representation in the Al-Maliki government and sapping it of even more of it’s legitimacy

The Government Accountability Office has released a report detailing the miserable failure of the Iraqi government:

Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration

[…]

The draft provides a stark assessment of the tactical effects of the current U.S.-led counteroffensive to secure Baghdad. “While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced,” it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that “the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved.”

“Overall,” the report concludes, “key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds,” as promised. While it makes no policy recommendations, the draft suggests that future administration assessments “would be more useful” if they backed up their judgments with more details and “provided data on broader measures of violence from all relevant U.S. agencies.”

This doesn’t look like progress to me—the Iraqi government is failing to meet it’s goals; violence against the Iraqi people is up; and the capability of Iraq’s military has been completely stagnant, leaving them utterly dependent on American troops.

This mirrors the bleak outlook given in the NIE (PDF):

There have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation since our last National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in January 2007.

[…]

However, the level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks; and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively.

[…]

Coalition forces continue to conduct robust counterinsurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), that Iraq’s security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi Government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance.

[…]

Political and security trajectories in Iraq continue to be driven primarily by Shia insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities resulting in armed conflict, and the actions of extremists such as AQI and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia that try to fuel sectarian violence.

[…]

The IC assesses that the emergence of “bottom-up” security initiatives, principally among Sunni Arabs and focused on combating AQI, represent the best prospect for improved security over the next six to 12 months, but we judge these initiatives will only translate into widespread political accommodation and enduring stability if the Iraqi Government accepts and supports them… We also assess that under some conditions “bottom-up initiatives” could pose risks to the Iraqi Government.

Iraq cannot be solved militarily.  There is no strategy, no army, no weapon out there that is going to be able to stop the violence on its own. Playing up the modest military gains in Iraq is taking pride in a job half-finished

Remember, the justification for the surge was to give the Iraqi government “breathing room” so they could foster political reconciliation and make much-needed progress.  Despite the surge and it’s modest military successes, that progress isn’t being made—in fact, it looks as far away as ever.  In short, military success is not bringing about political success.

In a few weeks, the White House will be releasing their report on the surge.  I’m sure it will be full of baseless optimism, inflating military victories while downplaying political failures, all while rewriting history as to what the initial purpose of the surge was.  I’m sure it will engage in extensive “anecdotes are data” conflation, while twisting/doctoring any actual data beyond recognition. 

In other words, I’m sure it will be like every other report on Iraq produced by this White House—unduly optimistic, unrealistic, non-factual and heavily doctored.

I’m not saying any of this to be pessimistic or defeatist (no matter what the right-wing bloggers might say).    But, the truth is that there are no good options left in Iraq—we are in a precarious and extraordinarily difficult situation.  If we are to minimize the damage—both to ourselves and to the Iraqis— we have to be realistic.  We can’t work off of GOP talking points, doctored reports and manufactured optimism.  We have to be honest about the conditions on the ground in order to come up with a workable plan that will actually get us somewhere.

So we have two choices—Either choose to believe the GOP hype and watch Iraq burn, or face the tough reality on the ground and start figuring out how to get out of this.   There are no  other options.  

Republican “Priorities”

I don’t want to spend too much time on Larry Craig, but this is something that has been bothering me, and I’m glad people are talking about it.  From Raw Story:

Less that 24 hours after he expressed regret for pleading guilty to disorderly conduct after an undercover cop said the Idaho Republican propositioned him, Craig was ousted from his committee posts in a decision Senate leaders said was “in the best interest” of the chamber. Meanwhile, it has been 52 days since Craig’s GOP colleague David Vitter acknowledged the “serious sin” of soliciting a call girl, yet the Louisiana senator has not budged from his committee posts.

Where Craig faced condemnation, Vitter received words of encouragement from colleagues — or at the very least, silence.

Sen. Ted Stevens’s prominent position in the Senate also seems safe, despite the Alaska Republican’s own taint of scandal. The FBI raided Stevens’s home last month in connection with a political corruption scandal in his home state. Substantial renovations of the home were carried out by contractors hired by oil-services company Veco Corp., whose executives have been accused of bribing state lawmakers.

“A disorderly conduct plea requires a member to give up his committee assignment, but a full-fledged bribery investigation does not,” observed Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Apparently, in the view of the Republican conference there is almost nothing more serious than a member attempting to engage in gay sex.”

The contrast between the GOP’s treatment of Craig and their treatment of other ethically-challenged Republicans is astounding.

Both David Vitter and Ted Stevens retain their positions in the Senate, the respect of their colleagues and their committee assignments—the former patronized prostitutes, the latter is the target of a massive corruption/bribery investigation.

Meanwhile, a man who plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct (without engaging in any actual lewd behavior) is stripped of his committee positions and attacked by his fellow Republicans (such as Senators Norm Coleman and John McCain).

It can’t be that Craig refused to admit he did anything wrong, instead offering a string of petulant denials—Senator Stevens has been exceptionally vehement and petulant about his own wrongdoing (though Vitter, to his credit, did admit some level of responsibility and regret).

It can’t be the hypocrisy, either—both Vitter and Stevens portray themselves as family-values, law-and-order Republicans, so their sordid transgressions make them just as hypocritical as Craig.

So, what is it?

Craig is being treated differently because he’s gay. 

That’s it, that’s all.  The GOP is turning him into a pariah because he was engaging in unethical homosexual behavior.  If he was taking bribes or sleeping with (female) hookers or anything like that, I doubt the Republican Party would give him the treatment he’s receiving now.

It just goes to show you the pathetic state of Republican priorities.  To them, bribery, corruption, lawbreaking, unethical behavior, soliciting hookers, protecting sexual predators (a la Dennis Hastert), etc. are all better than being gay.

Sad. Sad, sad, sad. 

Five Points on Larry Craig

Reading through the right-wing blogs this morning, I found several recurring themes about the Larry Craig incident, so I decided to spend a bit of time responding to them.

1. Why are you attacking Larry Craig for being gay? Doesn’t that make you homophobic?

The problem isn’t that Larry Craig is gay.

The problem is that Larry Craig is a hypocrite.

On one hand, he attacks gays, votes for the gay marriage ban and the defense of marriage act, votes against allowing gays in the military and promotes himself as a “family values” conservative.

On the other hand, he cruises for gay sex in airport men’s rooms—and this isn’t the first time Craig has sought public sex with other men, either.

2. I don’t care if he’s gay, that’s his private life.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. It’s his private life, and unless it interferes with his job or breaks the law, it’s not the public’s business.

But, again, it’s an issue of hypocrisy.

Conservatives dragged Bill Clinton’s private affairs out into public and used them to attack him over and over again—in fact, many of them are still bringing that up ten years later.

Conservatives have also centered a large part of their agenda on gays and gay rights. They insist on taking what should be private matters and turning them into political fodder. Remember, gay sex itself was illegal in many states until just four years ago, when the Supreme Court struck it down—an action that was greeted with massive indignation by the right (you can read Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence v. Texas for a taste of it).

As long as conservatives drag private conduct into the public spotlight, they’re hypocrites for protesting when someone else does the same to them. They set the rules, and now they have to play by them.

3. Craig didn’t do anything wrong. What’s the underlying crime?

Craig committed disorderly conduct.

How do we know that? Well, he plead guilty. He was charged with a crime and he said he committed it—case closed.

Of course, you could argue that what he did wasn’t disorderly conduct, and you could probably make a good case in that regard. Craig had a chance to do just that, and he didn’t—he plead guilty.

4. Craig didn’t know what he was doing—he pled guilty just to make this go away.

If that’s true, Craig committed perjury. He lied under oath about what happened and said that he was guilty when he wasn’t.

Craig isn’t your everyday man on the street, either. He studied at the University of Idaho and George Washington University. He’s been in politics since 1974, going from a State Senator to a Congressman to a U.S. Senator. Someone as experienced and educated as Craig should know the laws, know his rights, know the legal system, and know that you shouldn’t plead guilty to a crime you didn’t commit. In fact, I’d say that last part is pretty much common sense.

5. This is all just a witch hunt!

Like I said before, this is about hypocrisy, dishonesty, and lawbreaking—all performed by a public official. Craig himself said it best: “As an elected official, I fully realize that my life is open for public criticism and scrutiny…”

And keep in mind that conservatives—Larry Craig included—have made a cottage industry out of turning the private into the public when it suits them.

So this no mo more a witch hunt than any other scandal involving the personal life of a politician—whether it’s David Vitter or Bill Clinton.

That’s the risk you run when you turn the personal into the political—you give people free reign to look into your own personal life, to scrutinize your private activities. And when you do something wrong, something hypocritical, something illegal, it means you’re going to be attacked for it—just as you would attack others for doing the same things if they got caught.

Like I said, they set the rules and now they have to play by them.

Tucker Carlson Commits Hate Crime? (UPDATED: Carlson Responds)

Last Night, Tucker Carlson admitted to beating up a man who ‘bothered’ him back in high school.

The latest from Media Matters:

During Discussion of Craig’s Arrest, Carlson Admits High School Assault on Man Who “Bothered” Him in Public Restroom

For Video of the Exchange: CLICK HERE

Washington, DC – Last night on MSNBC Live, during a discussion about Sen. Larry Craig’s (R-ID) arrest for “lewd conduct” and eventual guilty plea, MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson described his assault on a man who he said “bothered” him in a Washington, D.C., public restroom.

Carlson asserted, “Having sex in a public men’s room is outrageous. It’s also really common. I’ve been bothered in men’s rooms.” When host Dan Abrams asked how Carlson responded to being “bothered,” Carlson asserted, “I went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the — you know, and grabbed him, and … hit him against the stall with his head, actually. … And then the cops came and arrested him.” Carlson had claimed earlier in the discussion, “I’ve been bothered in Georgetown Park,” in Washington, D.C., “when I was in high school.”

Transcript from the August 28 edition of MSNBC Live at 9 p.m. ET

ABRAMS: But Tucker, your position has long been on these kinds of stories that their personal lives are not our business. Does this case qualify for that, in your mind, as well?

CARLSON: Let me be clear, Dan. I am not gay. I have never been gay. I overreacted and made a poor decision.

SCARBOROUGH: And you love your — you love your wife, Tucker. Let me just say for the record, I am not gay, either.

CARLSON: Let me — let me put it this way. Whether he’s gay or not actually is not our business, and I do think it’s indefensible that the newspaper in Idaho spent a year interviewing 300 people to answer the question, Is he gay? That’s none of your business. Having sex in a public men’s room is outrageous. It’s also really common. I’ve been bothered in men’s rooms. I think people who do –

SCARBOROUGH: Really?

CARLSON: Yeah, I have. You know what, Let me just say.

SCARBOROUGH: Wait, hold on a second. Dan, hold on a second. I don’t mean to take over, but have you been bothered in public restrooms, Dan? Because I know I haven’t.

CARLSON: I have. I’ve been bothered in Georgetown Park. When I was in high school.

ABRAMS: Really?

CARLSON: Yes.

SCARBOROUGH: Wow.

CARLSON: And let me just say, I think —

SCARBOROUGH: That’s something.

CARLSON: — people should knock that off. I’m not anti-gay in the slightest, but that’s really common, and the gay rights groups ought to disavow that kind of crap because, you know, that actually does bother people who didn’t ask for being bothered. So yeah, I think it’s outrageous that he did that. And also, this specter of him getting up there and blaming other people is so Clintonian. You know, if he just said, “I’m not going to talk about it,” that’d be one thing.

ABRAMS: And — and this notion —

[crosstalk]

CARLSON: But he’s clearly crazy.

ABRAMS: Well, and this notion that he pled guilty, and yet he’s saying, “Oh, you know what? I never should have done that.”

SCARBOROUGH: Well, it’s the newspaper’s fault.

CARLSON: Well it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous.

ABRAMS: Well it’s the newspaper — it’s everyone’s fault except his own. I mean, I’ve never heard of — I mean, you’re a U.S. senator, and you’re thinking you’re going to make it go away —

SCARBOROUGH: But hold on a second, though, Dan —

ABRAMS: — by pleading guilty after you’re busted in a public bathroom?

SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. You have Bill Clinton, who actually went out and did the same exact thing. He showed defiance. He said, “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” And he continued that line not only for months in the press, but then he went before a grand jury and said the same thing. And it — you know what? Here’s the thing. It worked for Bill Clinton. His wife went on TV and she blamed, remember, the vast right-wing conspiracy that’s been trying to take down her husband.

I don’t dredge this up to knock the Clintons. That is history, and it’s a — ugh — it is a nasty part of our history, and I’m glad it’s behind us. I just bring it up to say, you know what? Deny, deny, deny seems to work.

[crosstalk]

CARLSON: But it’s also — but it’s evidence, in Larry Craig’s case — I mean, you know, you just watch the press conference, and you see a man who’s not in possession of himself. I mean, there’s something — you know, I’m not a shrink, but there’s clearly something wrong with Larry Craig. He appeared to believe it. This is a guy who’s been accused repeatedly over the years of soliciting sex from men in bathrooms. So the chances that he’s arrested for the same thing accidentally —

ABRAMS: Right, right, right.

CARLSON: What, he’s the unluckiest man and he’s Job?

SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Tucker?

CARLSON: You know what I mean? It’s insane!

SCARBOROUGH: Was he the guy in Georgetown, Tucker?

CARLSON: No, actually. I got that — my point is — let me just say —

ABRAMS: Tucker, what did you do, by the way? What did you do when he did that? We got to know.

CARLSON: I went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the — you know, and grabbed him, and — and —

ABRAMS: And did what?

CARLSON: Hit him against the stall with his head, actually!

[laughter]

CARLSON: And then the cops came and arrested him. But let me say that I’m the least anti-gay right-winger you’ll ever meet —

[laughter]

CARLSON: — but I do think doing this in men’s rooms appears to be common. It’s totally wrong, and they should knock it off. I mean that. I think it’s — I can’t bring my son to the men’s room at the park where he plays soccer because of all these creepy guys hanging around in there. I actually think it’s a problem. I’m sorry.

[Emphasis added]

This is more than disturbing, on multiple levels. Tucker Carlson actually admits beating someone up who ‘bothered’ him in a men’s bathroom back when he was in high school.

Yeah, getting prepositioned in a men’s bathroom (if that’s what actually happened–Tucker is vague on the details) is pretty sleazy, but getting a friend and beating the guy up is far, far worse.

And, of course, he has the temerity to say he’s the “least anti-gay right-winger you’ll ever meet.” So not only is he saying that the right wing is inherently anti-gay, but that the least anti-gay right-wing guy you’ll find beats up gay men for ‘bothering’ them.

Unbelievable.

UPDATED: Pam Spaulding has picked up on this, too.

(Added the question mark to the title because the specifics of what happened are unclear, though they certainly seem to indicate as much.)

UPDATE II: The Huffington Post now has the Media Matters piece in their politics section.

UPDATE III: Atrios has it now.

UPDATE IV: This is all over the place–most of the major left-wing blogs have picked up on it by now. This is getting a lot of attention.

UPDATE V: Media Matters has a response:

UPDATE: Media Matters received the following statement from Tucker Carlson by email from an MSNBC spokeswoman:

Let me be clear about an incident I referred to on MSNBC last night: In the mid-1980s, while I was a high school student, a man physically grabbed me in a men’s room in Washington, DC. I yelled, pulled away from him and ran out of the room. Twenty-five minutes later, a friend of mine and I returned to the men’s room. The man was still there, presumably waiting to do to someone else what he had done to me. My friend and I seized the man and held him until a security guard arrived.

Several bloggers have characterized this is [sic] a sort of gay bashing. That’s absurd, and an insult to anybody who has fought back against an unsolicited sexual attack. I wasn’t angry with the man because he was gay. I was angry because he assaulted me.

This statement makes no sense.

Now we know what Tucker meant by “bothered”– he was “physically grabbed.” The question is, why did he interpret this as a sexual assault? He provides no information as to how (or where) he was grabbed that would indicate this was some sort of sexual advance (and not, say, a mugging or something similar).

Also, Carlson says he and his friend “seized the man and held him until a security guard arrived.” This contradicts what he said on-air, which was that they bashed the man’s head into the stall.

This just doesn’t make sense. If Carlson was physically attacked and got away, the first thing he should have done is gone to get a police officer or a security guard. Instead, a half-hour later, he and a friend go back, confront the man, hold him down and/or hit his head into the stall.

Sounds like Carlson got a lot of angry feedback from what he said and is now trying to backpedal. Either that or he exaggerated the story on-air to make it sound more impressive. Either way, some serious dishonesty coming from Tucker Carlson.

Welcome Back

Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) is back!

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) made his return to public life Tuesday, appearing at a “Welcome Home” rally in Sioux Falls, S.D., and thanking his constituents for their support.

Johnson suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage last December and has not been seen in public since.

[…]

Johnson was rolled out on a wheelchair and hoisted himself to the podium with little or no assistance.

“You guys are a sight for sore eyes,” Johnson said to widespread applause.

“It must already be clear to you that my speech is not 100 percent, but doctors tell me that it will get there. In fact, if you ask [my wife] Barb, she will say that I’m already talking too much,” he joked.

Johnson spoke for just more than 10 minutes before stepping back into his wheelchair and being wheeled off. He said he feels like he has a second chance at life and promised to work harder than ever for his state.

He is expected to return to voting in the Senate in the coming weeks.

Rounds, who has been suggested as a possible opponent to Johnson in 2008, stressed the importance of the state’s nonpartisan support for Johnson’s recovery. Johnson has not yet said whether he will run again.

 Will Johnson run again?There are some good signs, courtesy of Badlands Blue:

Not only is Tim Johnson “back,” he also says “I expect to run and to win” in 2008.  The Rapid City Journal article adds:

Julianne Fisher, communications director for Johnson’s office, said the quote wasn’t an official announcement and that the senator would decide later. “He’s planning on it,’ she said. “He’s just going to make the decision later on. He wants to get back to the office first.”

Sure sounds like Johnson is running, and after last night’s extremely well-received “welcome home” speech, I think he’s in great shape to be re-elected.  As well he should be, given all he’s done and WILL do for South Dakota and America. Go Tim!

Remember, Johnson beat the guy who went on to beat Tom Daschle (current Republican Senator John Thune).  He’s a talented, smart politician and a good man to boot–I wish we had more Tim Johnsons in the Senate.

 Welcome back, Senator.   Best of luck in 2008 and beyond.