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Notes on a Scandal

Just in time to grab some tabloid eyeballs before the end of summer, DC has itself a good old-fashioned sex scandal. Well, sorta. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) was busted at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for disorderly conduct in the airport men's room, based on the signals an undercover officer believed Craig was sending, and – very importantly – he pled guilty to the charges.

The story was broken by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call yesterday:

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men's public restroom, according to an arrest report obtained by Roll Call on Monday afternoon.

Craig's arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.

In a statement released Monday night, Craig denied any wrongdoing and said he regrets his guilty plea.

It's a blockbuster story, and it leads you to think thoughts of "All The President's Men" and meetings in parking garages and all that exciting stuff, well, calm down. The backstory is remarkably … normal.

I called John McArdle - the Roll Call reporter who broke the story – telling him that while I didn't want to give away his particular journalistic recipe, I was curious if he could talk about the piece in general terms.

His response? "The story was based on a tip that came in last week. It took us a while to track down documents with the courthouse and the police department. But we were able to secure the documents Monday and we ran it Monday afternoon."

I then asked if he'd be comfortable characterizing the source. Was it an activist, somebody with a clear agenda, somebody he'd worked with before, somebody that raised an eyebrow? Anything?

"It was an interesting tip that came in," he responded.

I then asked him if it was daunting to break a story that he knew was going to make some waves, and he had this to say: "We had the documents. We got a quote from his office. We felt like we'd done the appropriate leg work on it, so no, I wasn't uncomfortable."

Finally, I asked him if there was something that got left on the editing room floor about this story that was worth bringing up. And, like a good newsman working the story, he responded, "I am looking into all sorts of angles, so be looking for an update this afternoon."

So, if you listen to McArdle, there's not a whole lot of drama involved. It's merely a "Just The Facts" story written by a guy who got a tip. Which is probably just as well, because the facts in this story are more than enough to take us through to the Petraeus Report in a little under two weeks.

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