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Vitter opponents' rhetoric only helping his reelection

If his opponents want to oust Sen. David Vitter from office in 2010, they have found exactly the wrong way to do it. He now enjoys the happy coincidence of an issue where he can come out in favor of his conservative principles and ride public sentiment in his favor while making opponents look sanctimonious and simultaneously devalue the only real vulnerable issue concerning Vitter.

Until last year, Vitter was 99.44 percent assured of reelection, given his strong conservative voting record in a majority conservative state. Then he revealed commission of a “serious sin” in the past, likely the usage of a prostitution ring prior to election to federal office. Given his record on the issues, his apparent contrition, and that many voters will accept somebody who votes the right way as long he doesn’t abuse the powers of his office, his chances for reelection may have plunged to 90 percent.

But with the emergence the possibility of the federal government bailing out one or more failing domestic automakers, he may be on the way to that higher plateau of reelection possibility. This issue not only allows Vitter to remind Louisianans of his specific opposition to this, shared nationally, and general dislike of government intervention into the economy, but the way in which his opponents have attacked him about it makes him look even better while pushing away the “character” issue. Just one sample of the rhetoric from a union hack that plays into Vitter’s hands:

“I don't know what Sen. Vitter has against GM [which has a major facility in Shreveport] or the United Auto Workers or the entire domestic auto industry; whatever it is, whatever he thinks we've done, it's time for him to forgive us, just like Sen. Vitter has asked the citizens of Louisiana to forgive him,” said [Morgan] Johnson, president of [Shreveport] Local 2166. Otherwise, Johnson said of Vitter, it would appear, “He'd rather pay a prostitute than pay auto workers.”

Is it possible to critique Vitter in a less intelligent way than this? Here’s a guy defending an industry losing money hand over fist because of an inadequate business model that allows a $30 differential in labor costs to its rivals promoted by his very union which allow typical workers to make $55,000 a year (exclusive of benefits worth 150 percent more), which until recently paid people not to work up to two years, paid them more in early retirement than when they worked, and supplies health benefits that even members of Congress would envy. And has the audacity to ask taxpayers many of whom are poorer that these unionized workers to subsidize this? Especially when Vitter would have supported a bailout bill that moved up minor union concessions only two years?

(It’s not like the UAW has been a fan of Vitter’s. Over his career, on average he has supported the UAW in votes only 6 percent of the time. So what did they expect? And General Motors hasn’t exactly been generous to Vitter during his 9 years in office: for the first time, earlier this year it gave him a contribution, of $1,000. Contrast this with the $19,000 they have thrown at Republican Vitter’s Democrat colleague Sen. Mary Landrieu in her 12 years in office, who wanted the bailout to go through.)

All this rhetoric does is it makes Vitter look like a champion of taxpayers, the middle class, and even more courageous because he is going against a special interest in his own state. And to drag in the shot about “pay” not only looks stupid because it’s clear that Vitter, nor anybody else, is obligated to “pay” any workers, but by coming up with such a strained metaphor on the character issue reduces its effectiveness. That is, when people see such an attack and recognize it is so ludicrous, it desensitizes them to the issue forcibly tied to it.

It also helps Vitter that he has attackers from outside the state that also seem to be part of a greedy cabal asking for handout to save them from their own folly. Speaking of paying, Vitter could not have had the funds to fund all the favorable publicity he can derive from a column appearing in the Detroit Free Press which basically called Vitter and others ingrates from not supporting the handout when Detroit manufacturers had sent aid after the 2005 hurricane disasters – never mind the difference between a natural disaster and bringing your own problems onto yourself, and not having the wisdom to figure out that if you’re doing something wrong that put you in this situation you don’t ask for a handout and not make more than cosmetic changes. (Perhaps it’s no surprise that with such simplemindedness in its product this outlet is losing so much money it is eliminating home delivery every day of the week; maybe it should ask for a bailout, too.)

If Vitter keeps getting these political softballs to whack over the fence, nobody is going to remember he had a “transgression” at all. If his opponents allow Vitter to demonstrate conservative credentials favored by the state’s majority over and over again, they might as well save their resources and give up on defeating him now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Vitter picks and choices when he wants to be fiscally conservative just like he picks and choices when he wants to display family values.

He rightfully stood up to the automakers and stood against the Paulson bailout but let's not forget he voted for ethanol subsidies every time he had a chance and he supported the huge farm welfare bill even though there were several more conservative alternatives.