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Romney links Craig with Bill Clinton

From NBC's Mark Murray

In his interview on CNBC's Kudlow & Company (which will air later this afternoon), Mitt Romney had some sharp words for Sen. Larry Craig, who had endorsed the former Massachusetts governor's presidential campaign and was his Idaho chairman. "Once again, we've found people in Washington have not lived up to the level of respect and dignity that we would expect for somebody that gets elected to a position of high influence. Very disappointing. He's no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine... I'm sorry to see that he has fallen short."

And Romney also included this jab at Bill Clinton as he continued to talk about Craig: "I think it reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton. I think it reminds us of the fact that people who are elected to public office continue to disappoint, and they somehow think that if they vote the right way on issues of significance or they can speak a good game, that we'll just forgive and forget. And the truth of the matter is, the most important thing we expect from elected--an elected official is a level of dignity and character that we can point to for our kids and our grandkids, and say, `Hey, someday I hope you grow up and you're someone like that person.' And we've seen disappointment in the White House, we've seen it in the Senate, we've seen it in Congress. And frankly, it's disgusting."

***UPDATE*** Below is the conversation regarding Craig and Clinton....

LARRY KUDLOW, host: 
Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, presidential candidate on the Republican side, who is surging in the polls, actually.

Governor, welcome back to KUDLOW & COMPANY.

Governor MITT ROMNEY: Thanks, Larry, good to be with you.

KUDLOW: All right, thank you, sir. I'm obliged to begin with what has become a front-page story. Senator Larry Craig of Ohio was caught in a police sting operation in the men's room of the Minneapolis Airport making sexual advances to another man. He's pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct at the moment. Mr. Craig's one of your Senate leaders. I believe he was your Idaho state chairman. What is your comment on the Craig problem, sir?

Gov. ROMNEY: Well, very disappointing. Once again, we've found people in Washington have not lived up to the level of respect and dignity that we would expect for somebody that gets elected to a position of high influence. Very disappointing. He's no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine. He resigned just today. And you know, he was one of those who was helping my effort, and I'm sorry to see that he has fallen short.

KUDLOW: One of your backers, radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, he's a great friend of mine, has called for Mr. Craig to resign from the Senate. Are you going to ask him to resign from the Senate? Will you make a public call on that?

Gov. ROMNEY: You know, I haven't made a call on that at this stage. You know, I haven't seen the allegations yet, I just heard that there was a guilty plea and he submitted a resignation as my liaison in the Senate. And you know, I'm very disappointed that he has--he's disappointed the American people.

KUDLOW: You know, there's a whole flood of stories on this, which I think to some extent may be a test of leadership in this primary. The Idaho Statesman has a devastating article about Craig, so does The Washington Post, so does Roll Call. Apparently, a couple years ago, a professional man close to the Republican Party reported having oral sex with Craig at Union Station in Washington in 2004. Apparently, there are allegations and charges going back to 1982, where Mr. Craig was forced to deny having sex with pages. Isn't this the sort of thing that reminds us all of the Mark Foley episode last fall, before the elections, that was devastating to the Republicans?

Gov. ROMNEY: Yeah, I think it reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton. I think it reminds us of the fact that people who are elected to public office continue to disappoint, and they somehow think that if they vote the right way on issues of significance or they can speak a good game, that we'll just forgive and forget. And the truth of the matter is, the most important thing we expect from elected--an elected official is a level of dignity and character that we can point to for our kids and our grandkids, and say, `Hey, someday I hope you grow up and you're someone like that person.' And we've seen disappointment in the White House, we've seen it in the Senate, we've seen it in Congress. And frankly, it's disgusting.

KUDLOW: Governor, if there were a President Romney, and you heard this, and your staff briefed you on some of the past allegations and charges, and there seems to be something of a cover-up, a silence on this with regard to Craig, would you not call for him to resign from the Senate?

Gov. ROMNEY: If--you know, I don't know the circumstances right now of his setting, and so I really can't call--make that call without having reviewed it, Larry. I will review that, and we'll give you a call on that. I certainly felt that Bill Clinton shouldn't have stayed in office. But you know, with regards to this setting, why, we'll take a close look at it.

KUDLOW: Actually, on that Clinton point, you threw Clinton in with the Craig episode and the Mark Foley episode. Could you just expand a little bit on that for us, sir?

Gov. ROMNEY: I'm not sure I need to. I think we've all heard the story about Bill Clinton and the fact that he let us down in his personal conduct with a--with a White House intern. And that strikes me as another one of these extraordinary acts of falling short of what America would expect of elected officials, particularly one who should be held to a higher standard.

KUDLOW: Do you think the Monica Lewinksy, impeachment and so forth, she was indicted--he, Mr. Clinton, was indicted in the House, he was not convicted in the Senate, Governor, does that become an issue again in this presidential campaign?

Gov. ROMNEY: I don't think so. I think the experience of the--of mine in the political world is that the things that we've heard about in the past, we tend to forget and not bring back up. But obviously, the continued parade of sexual misconduct in Washington, DC, is something which is very disturbing to America's families. And when you're trying to raise children, and you have stories like the ones we've seen over the last several years coming out of
Washington, that's very troubling. And I expect that people should be held to a higher standard, and that is something I'd expect to see in this particular case as well as in other cases that have proceeded it.

KUDLOW: You know, a friend of mine was on the phone this morning. A friend of mine was saying to me, you know, if you don't do these things, then you don't get into any trouble. Why do you think it is that we still get these kinds of news items coming out of Washington, DC? Elected officials, instead of just not doing them, they are insisting on doing them. What does it say about our culture? What does it say about the morality of public figures?

Gov. ROMNEY: Well, it does say, in my view, that some people in the public sphere expect that once they've been elected to something, they're prominent, that they're--that they're above the law, that they won't get caught, that people will give them a break, that they--that they somehow can live a different morality. And the truth of the matter is, if there's a different morality they should live, it should be a high--a higher level of morality. And if they've been involved in any discretion in their life, they should cease that discretion by the time they become elected, and should try and set an example in the way they live, which is consistent with the things they say. And you know, that's hard for everyone. But certainly, expecting people to live a life consistent with the dignity of the office to which they're elected is something which the American people should be able to count on.