A short shelf life for shame

A SHORT SHELF LIFE FOR SHAME…. Whenever I suggest that Eliot Spitzer should be let back into public life, in the wake of the sex scandal that forced his resignation, I hear plenty of pushback from readers. The usual case is straightforward enough: Spitzer was reckless, showed ridiculously bad judgment, and instead of just having a regular ol’ extra-marital affair, committed a crime by paying for sex.

But while the debate continues over whether Spitzer can contribute again to public life, we have David Vitter seeking re-election.

Louisiana GOP Senator David Vitter would have seemed like a prime candidate for retirement this cycle. After all, he went through a particularly nasty scandal last summer when it was revealed that he had frequented prostitutes in the DC area during his previous time in the House, as part of the “D.C. Madam” case.

But not so — local Louisiana station KTBS reports that Vitter has decided to run again! And considering the generally Republican nature of Louisiana’s voters these days, he starts out at the very least as the slight favorite to win, too.

Vitter will be launching his re-election campaign with a fundraiser next week, flanked by other big-name Louisiana pols like Gov. Bobby Jindal and members of the House delegation.

These kinds of comparisons are inherently tricky, but all things being equal, Vitter seems like a far better candidate for public shunning than Spitzer. In addition to the recklessness, the poor judgment, and the illegal conduct, Vitter frequented prostitutes after running on a family-values platform. Spitzer was stupid, but Vitter was stupid and hypocritical.

What’s more, after having been exposed hiring prostitutes, Spitzer quickly resigned. Vitter not only stuck around, but now wants another six years in office. And instead of seeing the Republican establishment balk in amazement, Vitter will apparently have his party’s full support.

So, what’s likely to happen? Two years is a long time, of course, and we don’t yet know who Vitter’s Democratic opponent is likely to be. Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) is being encouraged to throw his hat into the ring, and Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick and Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard are also possible candidates. There are rumors that Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana state representative, might launch a primary campaign against Vitter, but if Jindal & Co. are firmly behind the incumbent, this seems unlikely to go anywhere.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.