What Separates Louisiana’s David Vitter from Vance McAllister? Time and Politics
By Paul R. Stanley — Barbwire guest contributor
Only days after Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) was caught kissing a staffer in his district office, Republicans in Louisiana were calling on the freshman congressman to immediately resign. One question that many in Louisiana and in Washington are asking is if McAllister is being asked to resign, what about the Bayou State’s own Sen. David Vitter?
In case your knowledge of political sex scandals has faded over the last decade or so, Vitter had his own troubles in 2007 when his name surfaced in the black book of an infamous D.C. Madam. Amazingly, Vitter got through the scandal by only acknowledging his involvement with the prostitution service as a “serious sin.”
“I asked for and received forgiveness form God and from my wife in confession and marriage counseling,” Vitter said after the scandal broke.
Since then, Louisiana constituents not only reelected Vitter in 2010, he is now planning on running for the top executive spot in the Bayou State next year.
How did Vitter survive? Here are a handful of reasons.
- Vitter had 3 ½ years remaining on a six-year senate term. There is no question voters don’t care for their elected officials going astray, but time heals all scars and voters are forgiving and grateful it wasn’t their own sin that made national headlines.
- Vitter had a forgiving, not to mention a “very political” wife. Forget the CBS television series, The Good Wife. Vitter had a great wife – at least one who enjoyed the benefits of being a senator’s wife. In fact, she even introduced him at his post-sin press conference and took over when things got testy. “As David returns to work in Washington,” she continued, “we’re going to return to our life here. I would ask you very respectfully to let us continue our summer and our lives as we had planned.”
- Vitter refused to discuss the scandal. No matter how hard reporters pressed him on the matter, he walked at a brisk pace and always had a phone to his ear. With no new information, voters tire quickly of the same ole, same ole begin reported each day.
- Vitter held a seat that if vacated, would have most certainly led to a Democrat being appointed by then Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Regardless of any “sin” Vitter had committed, GOP leaders were not about to give up a seat in the U.S. Senate.
- Vitter was a political animal. He may have had few political friends, but he had political acquaintances all over the state, many of whom owed him favors. Plus, he had a reputation of helping the other side get what they wanted if he got what he wanted.
- Vitter never admitted what “sin” he had committed. His number may have been in the little black book, but no one knew what he did behind a closed door.
Here are a few reasons why McAllister might not survive his “kiss-gate”:
- McAllister is a freshman in the U.S. House of Representatives and must run for reelection every two years, meaning he must seek his first full-term later this year. There’s not much time for voters to forget his misdeeds.
- McAllister is not a political GOP insider. In fact, he’s an outsider. He defeated a Jindal and GOP machine backed candidate in 2013 and is no one’s favorite son.
- McAllister may or may not have a wife willing to stand by his side, but if she does she’ll have to convince women voters why they can trust her husband.
- McAllister apparently has a staff problem too. Several reliable sources have indidcated that a member of his own team leaked the kissing video.
- McAllister will have a hard time finding any of the congressional leadership team or his colleagues willing to stand by him. This will make fundraising a chore given he has a small amount in his campaign coffers.
Almost seven years later, Vitter is planning his strategy for governor and now has to relive his past “sins” by answering questions about McAllister kissing a staffer. Trust me, that wasn’t in his campaign plan.
Most striking is Louisiana’s top two GOPer’s, Governor Bobby Jindal and Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, have called on McAllister to step down. Jindal even went as far as calling the freshman congressman an “embarrassment.”
Last Friday I emailed Jindal’s press office and asked these three questions:
- Gov. Jindal, you have called on Rep. Vance McAllister to resign from Congress, saying he was an embarrassment to the state. Given that Sen. Vitter also engaged in what many believe was adultery with one or more prostitutes, why would you not call on Sen. Vitter not to run for governor or even resign his senate seat?
- Based on the facts known so far, do you consider Rep. McAllister’s actions more serious than those of Sen. Vitter?
- Do you believe that any candidate is unfit for office if they have acted inappropriately with someone of the opposite sex at any time in their life?
I wish I could report the governor’s response here, but sadly, there was no reply.
However, Jindal did respond to a reporter’s question on the issue last Sunday and said, “I know there are folks, there are Democrats and others trying to link the two issues,” Jindal told WWL.com. “I’m not going to go down that path. I think the issue before us is the congressman’s actions.”
So, is Jindal a huge fan and supporter of Vitter’s.
“Not hardly,” said Robert Mann, an LSU professor and political columnist. “In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Jindal camp is excited about the idea of getting questions about Vitter in hopes that his negative numbers increase. They probably won’t answer them, but they do not want to see Vitter as the next governor.”
An interesting political strategy for sure, especially since Jindal has his eyes on the White House or being asked to play second fiddle as Vice President on the next GOP ticket.
Still, it’s the state’s junior senator that has some questions to answer.
Vitter was in Monroe, Louisiana on Tuesday and like Jindal, dodged questions and an interview request about McAllister. However, it’s hard to dodge the same issue all summer and Vitter’s best defense will be to address the subject sooner, rather than later. The only problem he has is there is not good answer.
Regardless of whether McAllister survives his kissing episode, this will be yet another test on how far voters are willing to be pushed on the moral shortcomings of those who represent them.
David Vitter knows this all too well.
Paul Stanley is the Political Opinion Editor for The Christian Post. He served as a member of the Tennessee General Assembly in both the House of Representatives and the Senate from 2001-2009.
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