This has not been a good week for Republicans if they have wanted to press their family values theme.
Advice: Put it on ice for a while.
First, New Orlean’s GOPer Senator David Vitter gets linked to the so-called D.C. Madam.
And now (THIS JUST IN) Florida State Rep. Robert “Bob” Allen is enmeshed in a sex scandal for soliciting a male police officer.
We will absolutely resist making the cheap joke that — if these allegations are true — perhaps Vitter did to an escort what he has now done to his constituents and to the Presidential campaign of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Vitter was a leading figure who often talked about the importance of embracing morality and family values. It turns out he was apparently embracing more than that:
â€œIâ€™m a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history,â€ Mr. Vitter, a 46-year-old Republican, wrote in a letter last year to The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans daily.
That self-created image, a political winner here since 1991, when Mr. Vitter joined the Louisiana House, took a tumble Monday with the disclosure that his phone number was among those on a list of client numbers kept by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, who is accused of running a prostitution ring in Washington.
Mr. Vitter admitted Monday night to a â€œvery serious sin in my past,â€ and talk radio and coffee shops here buzzed all day Tuesday with the front-page news, even as the senator remained out of sight. But the fallout was far bigger than local: his admission is also a blow to the presidential campaign of Rudolph W. Giuliani, for whom he is Southern campaign chairman.
Mr. Vitter, an uncompromising foe of abortion, same-sex marriage and the immigration compromise that died in the Senate in June, was supposed to be Mr. Giulianiâ€™s ambassador to a region with large numbers of social conservatives suspicious of the candidateâ€™s moderate views. His viability in that role is now in doubt with his acknowledgment that his number was already in the phone records of Pamela Martin & Associates before he ran for the Senate in 2004.
The woman at the head of the company, Ms. Palfrey, contends that it was a legitimate escort service before being shut down last year. Federal prosecutors say it was a prostitution ring, and a State Department official, Randall L. Tobias, resigned in April with the disclosure that he had been a client.
Meanwhile, perhaps Allen’s constituents will feel that the accusation against him means he did his job representing them in a way similar to the specific act that he’s accused of having offered to do:
Titusville police say they have arrested Florida State Rep. Robert “Bob” Allen, of Merrit Island, on second degree misdemeanor charges for solicitation for prostitution.
Allen, 48, was arrested Wednesday afternoon at Veteran’s Memorial Park on East Broad St. in Titusville. The park was under surveillance by a detail of undercover police officers.
Officers say they noticed Allen acting suspicious as he went in and out of the men’s restroom 3 times. Minutes later, he solicited an undercover male officer inside the restroom, offering to perform oral sex for $20. Officers realized he was a public figure after the arrest.
Vitter was working on Giuliani’s campaign. Allen was working for Arizona Senator John McCain’s.
Do these scandals matter?
In terms of immediate political viability, politicos have survived sex scandals before (for instance, Democrats Barney Frank and, in somewhat downsized form, Bill Clinton). So perhaps Vitter and Allen can put these events behind them, move on and retain their positions.
But taken together these are rabbit punches to the Republican Party’s carefully cultivated image of a party more moral than the Democrats.
It could further raise the eyebrows of social conservatives. And it creates the image of a party in disarray that has some folks who loudly talk one game of morality but quietly play another.
Republicans in recent years, far more than the Democrats, have presented themselves as representing a more socially “moral” and politically-principled kind of philosophy and governance — one that was supposed to be values-based. But it’s turning out that rhetoric is not matching reality.
If the Democrats don’t seem to be able to get their act together, the Republicans on several fronts are coming across as having an act. Literally.
For instance, President George Bush, in 2000 talked about “compassionate conservatism,” the importance of avoiding nation building, smaller government, and being a “uniter not a divider.” Things have not quite worked out that way. Except for his promise of more conservative Supreme Court judges, Bush’s 2000 pronouncements didn’t outline the kind of administration that was to come — one that pressed for huge expansion of the federal government, seemingly brushed aside dealing with Congress and recognizing its legitimacy, and determined to not just nation-build, but region-build the whole Middle East.
The news reports about the sex scandals are cumulative: bad news out of Iraq, defiance of Congress, reports of more “inaccurate” testimony from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and now sex scandals. None of this is good news for Republicans up for re-election in 2008 — a year that now seems it’ll be marked by voters seeking a relief from Bush and Republican administration fatigue.
PS: Democrats shouldn’t be smiling. Some Democratic names could soon emerge, too, because Vitter’s alleged escapades came to light due to porn king and freedom of speech and freedom of the press activist Larry Flynt…who is looking at more names:
Larry Flynt, the porn-industry magnate who first linked Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) to the escort service of the â€œD.C. Madam,â€ said Wednesday that his investigators are tracking more than 20 leads on alleged congressional sex scandals.
…The 20-plus new leads, Flynt said, come from the newspaper ad and not Palfrey. The Hustler publisher, arrested and jailed multiple times during his decades-long career, vowed to provide clear proof and only out lawmakers whom he perceives to be hypocrites.
â€œYou guys always know, [from] the past, I deliver,â€ Flynt said. â€œAnd if I fail to, the mainstream media will crush me like a bug.â€
The Hill’s report omits something Flynt (who is a Democrat) said to a reporter for KFI radio in L.A.: he is NOT just looking at Republicans. Some Democrats are on the list as well.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.