Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Vitter needs to talk 

As I said when this story broke nationally, Senator Vitter owes Louisiana an explanation.

Instead, it appears the Senator has gone into hiding. He apologized for a "sin" in his past, implying that his traceable call to the D.C. Madam's escort service was a a one-time transgression. His supporters are saying this is "old news", and we should forgive and forget and move on. However, many of these same supporters dismissed reports about Vitter's infidelity as "unsubstantiated rumors" when they originally surfaced on talk radio and in the Louisiana Weekly. So which is it? Is Vitter acknowledging a single thoughtless transgression, or is there a pattern of behavior here? If it's the former, shouldn't Vitter clearly respond to the Canal Street Madam's allegations if he knows they are false? And shouldn't he clear the air about the long-simmering reports about him and Wendy Cortez? In an excellent piece titled "The Rise and Fall of Louisiana's David Vitter", Jeff Crouere raises similar concerns.

Unfortunately, for Vitter and for Louisiana, he has apparently gone into hiding. Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that Vitty-cent was avoiding the press and missing hearings on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, it's unclear where Vitter is spending the day. Cameras were waiting for him on Capitol Hill today, but the senator didn't show up as scheduled this morning at an Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing. Committee aides heard he had stayed home in Louisiana.

"The big game right now is, where is he?" one Democratic aide said, adding, "No one has seen him. He's the Howard Hughes of the Senate."

As allegation after allegation emerges, these absences and evasions only compound the many problems Louisiana faces in its recovery. How can Vitter speak up for his state if the press only wants to question him about his "sin"? How can Vitter do what he was elected to do if he's hiding out, and not responding to false reports? And if there are no false reports to respond to, then he should resign immediately.

Plenty of things about this story and scandal don't add up, though, so I'm surprised he is taking this approach.

For example:

Are the Canal Street Madam's claims that Vitter used her services true? The Canal Street Madam says that Vitter preferred a girl named "Wendy", which further inflames speculation surrounding Chris Tidmore's original reports about Vitter and Wendy Cortez. After Vitter's apology, Chris Tidmore seemed "vindicated" and released a statement excoriating Vitter for "conducting a series of lies over more than half a decade" about the matter. Is this the case, though? Has Tidmore been "vindicated", yet? Recall that Tidmore's stories weren't about Vitter's "sin" involving the DC Madam, nor were they about the Canal Street Madam. They were about Wendy Cortez and a Madam named Nicole from a "prominent New Orleans escort company" (which operated in the French Quarter, according to my sources).

Another smaller detail that doesn't add up concerns Senator Vitter's predilections. My source told me that multiple patrons at the Canal Street Brothel said Vitter was into diapers. Despite my trust in this source, I hope this detail is not true, because it's the sort of image that doesn't need to be in my subconscious. And Noladishu has also mentioned rumors about Vitter's "sick, sick fetish stuff".

Conversely, Jeanette Maier, the Canal Street Madam, told the Times Picayune that Vitter "was not a freak. He was not into anything unusual or kinky or weird." Surely, Vitter needn't talk about the particular garments he wore to "escort" agencies, but there is a growing body of specific (yet contradictory) testimony about his involvement with New Orleans working girls. He ought to deny these stories (again, categorically) if they are not true. Supporters are incorrect when they say this is "old news". The DC angle is actually newer news. The question becomes, "Is the 'old news' also true?"

And if it is true, it would be in Louisiana's best interest if Vitter were to resign.

Update: The DP links to Milbank's Wapo column about Vitter being "Missing":

[The] lawmaker was on the lam.

The Senate voted to confirm a federal judge in Michigan. No Vitter.

The public works subcommittee on which Vitter is the ranking Republican held a hearing. No Vitter.

Three Louisiana officials testified at another hearing about Gulf Coast rebuilding. No Vitter.

Republican senators sat down to lunch with Vice President Cheney. No Vitter.

Rumors spread that the senator, present on the Senate floor Monday evening, had fled to the Big Easy -- but his aides ignored phone calls and e-mails throughout the day inquiring about the senator's whereabouts.

Minor edits were made to this post after initial publishing.

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5 comments DiggIt!


"Instead, it appears the Senator has gone into hiding."

Has anyone checked the hospitals?

By Anonymous Carmen, at 12:12 PM  

Vitter's toast, just read James Gill's column. Even when Gill was good at providing incisive, insightful commentary, he was a lousy prognosticator. Now he says:

"So we won't have Vice President Vitter any time soon, but it is unlikely that this little contretemps will have much impact when time comes for his re-election to the Senate."

By Blogger bayoustjohndavid, at 1:05 PM  

Oyster, you've been good on Vitter and Jindal.

The New Orleans and Baton Rouge main papers were a bizarre read on the scandals. Madam Maier's words were particularly amusing. We inhabit an asylum, you know. We're inmates.

By Blogger Grandmère Mimi, at 1:19 PM  

Ha! I love it.

Gill is a contrarian indicator, then.

By Blogger oyster, at 1:20 PM  

Rumors rarely add up to anything coherent, and as you've made clear, much of this is nothing but rumors.

Statements not made under oath, particularly with people whose own fat may be in the fire, need to be viewed with a bit of skepticism as well.

Tersely worded statements of confession that don't say what is being confessed, do not help matters, either. For both the confessor, and the public.

I appreciate that you have avoided the "give more weight to the things I want to be true" style of "reasoning".

That being said, it seems like this is far from over, and I am sure more details will be forthcoming.

By Blogger celcus, at 1:29 PM