Vitter Emerges to an Uncertain Future

July 17, 2007…When he finally emerged from hiding U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) faced the media, but he didn’t face the music. Vitter expressed his sorrow for his actions and apologized to his supporters, but he answered no questions. He said “I’m not going to answer endless questions about it all over again and again and again and again.” The comment was odd, since he has never answered any questions about his involvement with the D.C. madam’s escort service. The media left the news conference unsatisfied and outraged that the staged event provided such scant new information to the public.

Vitter should have answered questions from every reporter and stayed until they were finished. He should have been truthful and completely forthcoming about what he did, when he did it and why. He constituents still need to know the truth and deserve his full explanation for what happened. Vitter is a public servant who supposedly answers to his employers, the voters of Louisiana.

At the news conference, Vitter denied “those New Orleans stories” which have outlined his relationship with local prostitutes and the Canal Street madam. He blamed “political enemies” for making his troubles worse, but refused to name them.

Every question involving Vitter’s alleged activity with prostitutes remains unresolved except one and that is whether his wife would leave him over his infidelity. At the news conference, Wendy Vitter pledged her support to her husband and provided him a major assist just by attending and proclaiming that their marriage “is stronger every day.” Mrs. Vitter provided the Senator both moral and political cover. As the aggrieved wife, Wendy Vitter did nothing wrong in this whole situation, but has had to endure the embarrassment and media frenzy caused by her husband’s moral failing. Her commitment to her family and to her marriage is commendable and no one would have blamed Wendy Vitter for leaving her husband; however, she is staying in the marriage and keeping her family together at great personal cost.

One interesting aspect of Vitter’s news conference was the curious timing, for it was scheduled at 5:05 p.m. for a reason. It was designed to maximize Vitter’s news coverage and also to completely overshadow the gubernatorial announcement of Congressman Bobby Jindal (R-Kenner). While Vitter was greeting a media horde in Metairie, Jindal was arriving in Kenner for his long planned campaign kick-off. Vitter literally moved Jindal off of the front pages and this move infuriated many of the congressman’s supporters. It clearly showed the division in the Louisiana Republican Party between the U.S. Senator and his supporters and those who view Congressman Jindal as the top Republican in the state. Possibly, Vitter’s move was a payback for Jindal’s tepid statement last weekend offering prayers to the Senator, yet signaling his disappointment with the sordid behavior.

The Vitter insult will likely not be forgotten by the Jindal campaign anytime soon. It was an intentional and unnecessary effort designed to eclipse the congressman’s campaign kick-off. It showed Vitter’s unhappiness with the strong support Jindal has within the Louisiana GOP, as he must now realize the he now longer represents the brightest star among Louisiana Republicans, as undoubtedly the Kenner congressman is the most popular figure within the state party.

Now that David Vitter is back on Capitol Hill, he is finally earning his paycheck once again, after a week in hiding. Yet, the story is not over and the focus should continue to be placed on the Senator, for there are still too many unanswered questions.

One question that was answered yesterday was whether Vitter had the political skill to confront the media and deal with the embarrassment of these sleazy revelations. The answer to that question is a resounding yes, as Vitter’s performance was positively Clintonesque. It was reminiscent of how Clinton survived the Gennifer Flowers scandal, basically by being vague, showing remorse and allowing his wife to carry him through the tough spot.

In the Bill Clinton sex scandals of the 1990’s, the allegations of illicit behavior never caused the President much trouble. Only when the DNA evidence was produced, the infamous stain on the blue dress was the President ever in jeopardy, eventually having to confess his misdeeds. Similarly, Vitter can survive as long as Larry Flynt, the Canal Street madam, various prostitutes and his “political enemies” cannot produce solid evidence like video or audio recordings, phone records, or pictures.

Without solid evidence and any more revelations, Vitter will be able to survive this scandal and “get back to work,” as a chastened, less effective, but still employed, member of the United States Senate. It’s interesting however that the role model for this conservative Republican is not a GOP icon like Ronald Reagan, but the infamous “Slick Willy” Bill Clinton. Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed.