Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ranting On...the David Vitter Scandal

Sen. David Vitter is one of the biggest conundrums in the world of American politics today.  Frequently people have been talking about how someone like Donald Trump seems to be made of teflon, never really losing his spot in the polls and seemingly saying things that would doom literally any other campaign, but the reality is that Trump has never won an election.  The same cannot be said for David Vitter, perhaps the most scandal-ridden member of the United States Senate.  Vitter famously was caught in the 2007 DC Madam scandal, being on Deborah Jeane Palfrey's client list.  Vitter had one of those press conferences where he stood by his wife and apologized for his sins, but the rumors continued, including a rather prominent one that the United States Senator from Louisiana enjoyed wearing diapers while having sex.  Still, while other prominent politicians like Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner got crucified and were forced to resign in the wake of similar such allegations, Vitter not only stayed in his seat but actually won reelection.

Oddly enough, though, the story has found its way into a bit of a resurrection this year as Vitter fights to become Louisiana's next governor, and it begs the question as to whether this is appropriate.  Recently Derek Myers, a reporter for a local Louisiana affiliate was fired under rather shady circumstances, in this case potentially at the behest of the Vitter campaign who threatened to pull TV advertising if Myers wasn't let go, after Myers asked the senator about the campaign and the role-playing.  While parties seem to dismiss the idea, there is definitely a series of "hmms" and sketchy grey areas in the statements of the news station and Vitter's campaign, enough to make you probably believe the initial stories coming out, or at least to question whether everyone acted on the up-and-up.

But that's a side note here-the better question is if Myers acted out of line, and I'm going to argue that he didn't.  This isn't because I think that Vitter shouldn't have some personal forgiveness for this scandal, however.  If Vitter did commit a crime, it's something that the courts should have decided upon and no one pressed charges, so that's in the past, and I'm someone who doesn't think that one should be precluded from public office because they committed adultery (I'm voting on the issues, not on someone's personal life), and I think the amount of chastising he should receive is between he and his wife.  However, Vitter has frequently put himself in a position to deride the private lives of others as being immoral and unseemly, particularly when it comes to gay rights and the issue of gay marriage.  This is a man who said "it feels like a Chick-fil-a kind of day" when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of nationwide gay marriage, and who has frequently voted against pro-choice and pro-gay rights measures in his time in Congress.  These are private matters as well, but they are ones that Vitter feels it is appropriate to insert himself into; by the same logic there are numerous people who similarly oppose adultery and prostitution (the Bible has a lot more to say on these subjects than homosexuality), so why shouldn't Vitter have to answer these sorts of questions, distinguishing why his logic can have its cake and eat it too?

Clearly this time Vitter's teflon appears to be wearing a bit thin.  Despite seeming likely to make it to the runoff as the only Republican, Vitter is in an odd position where Democratic House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards is actually leading him by double-digits in recent polls despite the Bayou State's ruby red tint.  This is staggering considering both that Louisiana sent Mary Landrieu packing just a year ago by a landslide despite having far greater personal support than Edwards and because Vitter's actually survived an election since his scandal, against a sitting US Congressman no less and so one would assume that the voters wouldn't have cared.  Admittedly Vitter has to run against a wildly unpopular Republican administration in Bobby Jindal's outgoing team, a fact made quite delicious considering the two men despise each other, but it seems pretty clear that the prostitution scandal is one of the critical components hurting Vitter here.  I can't recall the last time someone survived after a scandal only to have them lose later on as a result (one could argue that Chuck Robb could fit this bill, but his 2000 loss had less to do with his affair with Tai Collins and more to do with a lackluster campaign).  The worst thing for Vitter, who at 54 still has a seemingly long period before retirement if you go by political years, is that if he loses the governor's race this year he doesn't get a breather for the Senate, as he's up for reelection in 2016 and would likely face a more spirited challenge from either the left or the right considering it's now been shown how to defeat him.  Vitter may be made of teflon, but this election cycle he could finally have met his match eight years later than expected.

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