July 30, 2007

The Vitter Scandal in a Nutshell

The controversy surrounding Senator David Vitter's apparent patronage of alleged DC madam Deborah Jeanne Palfrey's escort service has gradually waned from public view. Mr. Vitter has returned to Capitol Hill, and apparently has no intention to either resign or answer further questions about what strongly appears to be his repeated solicitation of prostitutes. In all likelihood, he will serve out his term, and perhaps run for re-election.

With all of the problems currently facing the nation, it is indeed difficult to make the case that the sins of David Vitter are of paramount importance. Nonetheless, there are important lessons to be taken from this scandal, no matter the ultimate outcome.

First, while the Vitter family has been subject to unwelcome attention, it is unquestionable that fault for this lies nowhere else but with the senator. It is legitimately news when someone who has not only made his career out of attacking the integrity of opponents and setting himself up as a paragon of "family values", but who is in a position to directly affect the lives of American citizens who do not share his definition of those values, looks to have a thing for high-priced call girls.

Second, the fact that Senator Vitter has apologized publicly for his "indiscretions" and asks that we, the public, respect his family's privacy is completely irrelevant. As Ross Douthat notes:
If a politician were caught with his name on the "call list" of a prominent drug dealer, he wouldn't be able to wriggle out of it by admitting to a "serious sin" and leaving it at that. And unless prominent Republicans are prepared to join ... in supporting the repeal of laws banning prostitution ... then they shouldn't be backing Vitter's "it's a private matter" line. It isn't. It's a crime.
Further, Mr. Vitter's claims to have made peace with his wife and with his god over his wrongdoing is utterly meaningless. David Vitter is a federal legislator - a lawmaker - and he works for neither his wife nor his diety. He works for the people of the United States, and if he has broken the law, he is unfit for office.

Tom the Dancing Bug's take on the "Vitter Method" of escaping culpability:

[Click on the cartoon to go to the original image, and click here to visit the Tom the Dancing Bug archive.]

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