I had some fun with the title of this one by melding memorable phrases from two of my favorite writers: historian Barbara Tuchman and pundit supremo Charlie Pierce. I’ve written about Tuchman’s book The March of Folly before here at First Draft and Pierce is oft quoted in this neck of the virtual woods and not just by lil’ ole me. The Piercian phrase I’m alluding to is “the pursuit of the President’s penis,” which is his apt description of how Bill Clinton’s enemies tried and failed to bring him down by focusing on zipper issues and periodic “bimbo eruptions.”
The same pattern is playing out with David Vitter and the Gret Stet Goober race. The people who are convinced that the Vitter hooker scandal is a winning issue include two friends of mine, Lamar White Jr. and Jason Brad Berry aka Dambala, the world’s only investigative Zombie. Both of whom are quoted in a front page article by Tyler Bridges in Saturday’s Advocate:
…a political action committee launched an anti-Vitter ad on television. Exactly who is behind the group and how much money its donors are putting behind the ad is not yet clear, but it was airing statewide as of Friday.
The anti-Vitter faction — including an entity called Gumbo PAC — is trying to dredge up and disseminate enough information to keep voters from sending Vitter into the Governor’s Mansion in January. With Vitter holding a huge lead in fundraising and enjoying a large statewide profile, some think a new and sordid disclosure — or a cleverly packaged attack using existing information — may be the only thing that will derail him.
“Any new revelations could hurt him deeply with women voters, if not all voters,” said Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “The stakes are high.”
But no new information has emerged yet. In fact, no major new facts have emerged since 2007, when Vitter vaguely admitted to a “very serious sin” and refused to go into further details. In 2010, he easily weathered a Senate re-election campaign, in which his opponent was unable to dig up any fresh scandal.
Here’s the deal: I like and respect Lamar and Jason. They’ve both done a lot of good work but as of today there’s simply no there there. As to the others involved in what Bridges calls the “shadow campaign,” I think they’ve lost the plot. We’re dealing with 8-year-old information that was raised during the 2010 Senate election campaign. It did not make a dent in Vitter’s support at that point and I’m dubious that stating over and over again that he “hasn’t fully explained himself” will have any impact on the electorate. If they think baiting Vitter will bring him out of his rope-a-dope strategy of saying as little as possible, they’re deluding themselves. Vitter may be a despicable cad and a turd floating in the punch bowl of our political system but he is a smart, disciplined, well-financed cad and turd. I’d love to see him flushed but the pursuit of Vitter’s diaper is not going to work.
I enjoy mocking David Vitter. It’s fun to call him Diaper Dave and the Sinator, especially since he’s a man with no discernible sense of humor. And, yes, he’s a family values spouting hypocrite but the hooker allegations have been litigated before in a 2010 debate:
But the fullest airing of the issue occurred during nearly four minutes of a statewide televised debatebetween the candidates, and there, Vitter showed off the stubborn, disciplined unwillingness to address the topic that he has demonstrated ever since he spoke to the press at the Sheraton.
WAFB-TV reporter Greg Meriwether asked Vitter to identify the “serious sin” he had confessed to three years earlier. But Vitter would not do so. Instead, he repeated his 2007 comments that he had received forgiveness from his wife and God and said he had received an outpouring of prayers and support from constituents afterward.
“It was truly humbling,” Vitter said of the reaction.
WWL-TV anchor Dennis Woltering jumped in to ask Vitter whether he had violated the law in committing the unspecified sin.
Vitter said he had spoken directly on the issue to voters in 2007. He added: “Now I’m looking forward. I’m not looking back.”
Meriwether tried again, asking Vitter to give a yes or no answer on whether he had violated the law.
“You can stay fixated on that,” Vitter said, repeating that he wanted to look forward.
Woltering interjected that Vitter still hadn’t answered the questions.
“I think the people of Louisiana have understood exactly what I said to them,” Vitter replied. “I think they want me to focus on the key challenges we face as a state and as a country. That’s what they tell me directly. It may not be what the media badgers me with.”
Vitter was re-elected in a landslide over Democrat Charlie Melancon. The voters simply did not give a shit about his personal life, but here we are 5 years later still going on about the same thing. The voters don’t give a shit about hearing a “complete” explanation of Vitter’s “sin,” and Vitter’s most rabid pursuers are sounding more and more like Cliff Jackson, Kenneth Starr, and all those who thought Bill Clinton’s sex life would bring him down. It has become an obsession with some people and, if I thought it would work, I’d be cheering them on. I’d like to remind them that Bill Clinton not only survived but became more popular after the publication of the Starr Report in all its lurid glory. I’m concerned that the same backlash could happen in the Gret Stet Goober race and that this would benefit Bitter Vitter.
Jeffrey of Yellow Blog fame wrote something about the obsessive pursuit of Vitter’s diaper that I concur with:
One assumes Vitter’s opponents would like to beat him, although it’s possible they just like having him around for comedic purposes. And, hey, it is fun. Vitter asks to be taken seriously as a pious defender of “family values” and yet his personal proclivities reveal him to be something of a fraud. Major LOLZ there. You don’t even have to be particularly creative to score points off of that.
But maybe ten plus years is enough of that. Is it even funny anymore? More importantly, shouldn’t we know by now that this isn’t the way to win an election against David Vitter? Hey remember that time everybody pretended they were going to run a porn star against him? Wasn’t that hilarious? How did that work out?
Everything about this particular Gret Stet March of Folly reflects how focused the media and political operatives are on process over substance. David Vitter is terrible on the issues but Louisiana Democrats are afraid of focusing on substance because the state has become increasingly red in the last 10 years. They don’t even bother trying any more, all this latest spasm of “character” based attacks illustrates is their political bankruptcy.
It’s obvious that David Vitter is as lucky in his enemies as Bill Clinton. I’m not even certain at this point that a new hooker popping up would be a factor in the 2015 Goober campaign. At the risk of being repetitive, likability has nothing to do with David Vitter’s electoral success. He’s a prick and makes no bones about it and some people like him for that reason.
I hope I’m wrong about this but, as of today, I think this approach has a snow cone’s chance in hell of working. The Gret Stet March of Folly is likely to waste time and resources and end up alongside the futile pursuit of Vitter’s diaper in the memory dump just like in the movie Inside Out.
I just gave myself another R.E.M. earworm, so I’ll give the Orange Clown haters the last word: