Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Dear John

Once celebrated mostly for superb potatoes and world-class ski runs, Idaho has a new claim of sorts: Politicians with a fascination for bathrooms.

Habitués of late-night television have heard the running gags about U.S. Sen. Larry Craig's wide-stance encounter in a Minneapolis airport bathroom with a police officer conducting a sex-sting operation. Craig's 2007 arrest, guilty plea to disorderly conduct, and subsequent "I-am-not-gay" press conference will forever overshadow his two decades in Washington.

Comes now news that former Idaho Gov. and current Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne ladled out $235,000 in public funds in the final months of his cabinet stint to renovate his private office bathroom.

Kempthorne's potty is no ordinary loo. No, sir. Not even the nation's soaring debt could stay this bureaucrat from lavish spending. There's a shower, a refrigerator and freezer, new plumbing and lavish wood paneling.

At a cost that exceeds the late 2008 median price of a Boise home ($187,300), Kempthorne's bathroom is bound to become as notable as the legendary $600 paid by the Pentagon for a military toilet and the Minneapolis bathroom stall where Sen. Craig was arrested.

Kempthorne's new rest stop was greeted with a withering comment from an Interior Department worker who sniffed, "If Gale Norton (Kempthorne's predecessor) needed to shower, at least she was conservative enough to go to the gym in the basement of the building."

A gym? How gauche.

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