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Vitter apology caps political potential; may boost another's

Yesterday’s virtual admission by Sen. David Vitter that in fact he had engaged in unsavory, if not potentially illegal, behavior will have some political repercussions for himself and others.

Vitter’s volunteering that his phone number was on a list released by a woman being investigated for running a prostitution ring, along with his explanation behind the admission, tacitly admitted that he had committed marital infidelity of the possibly illegal kind. No doubt he preferred to control the timing and nature of what would be a news story by not waiting around for the curious to link the number to him.

This gets the conservative Republican into hot water for two reasons. The all-but-admission of infidelity will prompt a small portion of voters who place moral issues as primary in their voting calculus to cross him off their lists for reelection in 2010. Added to that, Vitter denied media reports prior to his election to the Senate that just such activity by him was occurring so now he appears to be a liar as well, another turn-off to such voters. (But at least he didn’t lie to a federal court as did the 42nd president.) This is because in 2002 news reports linked Vitter to another prostitute, although Vitter’s admission here did not address that allegation. However, Vitter did deny this then, so now his credibility on that past issue in light of recent revelations about that seems strained.

But this is no way will affect his chances of holding onto his seat. Vitter’s record in Washington shows he votes in a way that a majority in the state like and which also serves the best interests of Louisianans, and his apology appears thoughtful and sincere. This will be more than enough to return him despite this episode.

How this will affect his political career is that it imposes a ceiling to it. One possible motivation for Vitter to endorse moderate (mainly based on social issues) former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination was by doing so early, Giuliani if he could win the nomination might well pick the staunch conservative Vitter as his vice presidential running mate. That cannot happen now.

The effects of the admission ripple further, however. The reporter most responsible for breaking the story five years ago about Vitter’s infidelity, Christopher Tidmore, is a candidate for the House 82nd District in fall state elections. This incident, given the past accusation, boosts Tidmore’s credentials as a steadfast potential legislator with a willingness to expose seeming unethical behavior that cannot help but impress voters.

Thus, the affair may serve to attenuate the potential of one political career, and help to launch another one.


Anonymous said...

You mean to say that misleading statements (he was never convicted of perjury) in a fishing exped ... well, deposition and grand jury(not in a federal court) is somehow less illegal than hiring a prostitute, to which he has admitted? OK.

Jeff Sadow said...

Congratulations on the fine example of Clintonian argumentation! A version of sophistry, Clintonian speech attempts to use words to obscure or to distort meaning ("what 'is' is"). Your short note manages to do both, so let's get specific.

You try to pass off the conviction of Clinton as something inconsequential. Clinton, the first and only president to be convicted in federal court during his presidency, was cited for contempt (which is done by a judge) because of a pattern of deception in his testimony regarding a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him. See both Later, Clinton was disbarred for five years from the Arkansas bar, in addition to the uncontested fine he paid.

By contrast, Vitter did not admit that he had committed adultery with any prostitute, which you imply he did. Read carefully and try not to distort his comments: he apologized for his number being on the list and admitted having marital difficulties.

Bottom line: Clinton was convicted of the federal crime of contempt of court for lying, not for "misleading" statements. Vitter has not admitted to any criminal act, much less been convicted of it. Your Clintonian strategy tries to reverse the two. If nothing else, it serves as a useful reminder for what the country will endure if Clinton's wife manages to get elected to the presidency, and what we suffer from already by her presence in the Senate.