Wednesday, 22 June 2011 11:19
Latest Claims Against Louisiana Sen. Vitter Are Meritless
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Vitter debateBereft of winning issues, a leftist organization tries something new. Searching for relevance, a group with a track record of religious conservatism tries something old. Both target Sen. David Vitter with arguments that, when examined on a principled basis, have no merit. 

Understand that Republican Vitter is the most hated conservative by liberals in Louisiana. That probably was true even before in 2007 Vitter admitted publicly to a “serious sin” most likely involving prostitution services, because Vitter won a lot of political battles of behalf of conservative principles and consistently voted and acted that way in office, unapologetically and would point out liberal shortcomings with gusto. 

But Vitter also possibly is the most hated conservative by conservatives, or at least some of them, in Louisiana.

This is because he brought the same take-no-prisoners approach to clawing his way to the top of the Republican Party and into the Senate, through aggressive campaigning dispatching intra-party rivals with the same relish as his ideological opponents outside of it. 

Vitter particularly irks detractors as his publicly-stated issue preferences about personal morality and government ethics to them seem contradicted by his own behavior at a personal level and in his bare-knuckle politics style. So ever since revelation of the “serious sin,” like a festering sore irritated episodically, every time another elected official of some prominence finds some kind of sex scandal bursting into public consciousness, you can count on somebody somewhere to bring up Vitter’s experience. 

The latest comes from the Family Policy Network, a self-described conservative Christian organization, which retreads old terrain by its claim that Vitter, emulating the former Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, should resign his position. Weiner sent inappropriately sexualized pictures of him to various individuals, denied publicly he had done so for days, may have misused taxpayer resources as a result, caused taxpayer resources to be committed to a bogus investigation based upon his initial mendacious account, when finally admitting it defended his behavior, and hard evidence suggests he may have broken the law. 

None of this behavior describes Vitter’s situation in 2007. When caught with his pants down, he didn’t deny it, broadly admitted it, and asked for forgiveness for his vague admission. Even here, the only hard evidence concerning Vitter’s activities came from the number of a cell phone associated with him in the records of a prostitution ring under investigation. Years earlier, rumors never substantiated had surfaced about Vitter and other women who worked in prostitution, but no hard evidence about that ever came to light nor any formal charges filed against him. 

What this group has gotten hung up on, and does not understand the conceptual differences concerning, is that, in discharging their duties as elected officials, sexual proclivities do not matter. Those may be, as any criteria are, sufficient on which to make a voting decision, but as far as suitability to perform the duties of the office adequately, do not matter. Recall that the principled basis for asking for and for impeaching and convicting Pres. Bill Clinton was not that he had various forms of sexual intercourse with a White House intern, but that he lied about it relevant to and obstructed justice in the investigation of it – clearly traits that govern his suitability to discharge adequately the duties of his office, and demonstrated his unfitness in doing so. 

No evidence ever has pointed to Vitter’s abuse of office and related behavior that shows he cannot perform his duties adequately. And as far as the judgment about his moral worth to hold such office, a different question appropriately settled at the ballot box, last year the resounding answer from Louisianans affirmed his stay in office, by a landslide. Finally, one wonders where this group was four years ago when Vitter made his announcement, if it claims to be principled in any way. 

As unsustainable as the argument that Vitter should resign becomes when it’s vetted seriously on the basis of principles, a different charge from the left by comparison is laughable. The misnamed Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has a record of off-the-wall accusations and against Vitter, pontificates that Vitter should face Senate punishment for “bribery,” because he said he would not vote to raise the salary of U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar until more drilling permits for oil extraction in the Gulf of Mexico were issued by that department. Since previously he served as a senator, Salazar could not participate in the latest round of pay raises for Cabinet members until now. 

By that assertion, CREW appears both unable to think critically or to understand how the Senate operates. “Bribery” occurs only when a thing of value is exchanged through coercion, so thinking people should be very interested in what CREW says is the thing of value specifically given to Vitter in this dispute. Further, if the Democrats that run the Senate decided to bring the pay issue to a vote, there’s nothing Vitter could do within the rules to stop it other than try a filibuster, which would not succeed. Only custom allows him to say unilaterally he doesn’t approve of something, and then other senators voluntarily accede. So what coercive mechanism does Vitter have, in order to get nothing of value in any event, for this to be bribery? 

Once again, CREW demonstrates it is more interested in grabbing headlines with anti-intellectual posturing than in making any substantive contribution to political debate. Just another example of how Vitter keeps driving his political opponents crazy.

by Jeffrey Sadow, Ph.D.

Read his daily blog at Between The Lines 

Do you feel that these latest charges by the conservative group and by CREW are ill-founded?


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Jeffrey Sadow

Jeffrey Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.   He writes a daily conservative blog called Between The Lines

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