A QUESTION OF CHARACTER…. Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) is running for the Senate in Louisiana next year, and hopes to capitalize on the fact that incumbent Sen. David Vitter (R) is a “family values” conservative who got caught paying prostitutes. “Character is a central issue in this race,” Melancon recently said, without going into specifics.

Vitter, not surprisingly, isn’t anxious to talk about his sex scandal, but was willing to say that he has “complete confidence” in voters’ judgment. “I think, quite frankly, character is displayed in a variety of different ways,” the right-wing senator said.

Now, Vitter used to feel differently — when it was Bill Clinton’s personal life facing scrutiny, “character” had a more limited definition — but his point is well taken. Character can be displayed in a variety of ways. Sure, Vitter preached about the importance of “traditional” marriage while cheating on his wife with a hooker, but it’s certainly possible for Vitter to still demonstrate integrity in his professional life.

Regrettably, he’s falling short there, too. Eric Kleefeld has the text of a letter Vitter recently sent to supporters, which included these claims:

So what about the claims that this plan will reduce health care costs? Well, to do that will simply require a plan to ration existing resources and restrict benefits for certain medicines, procedures and therapies.

The government will determine who is eligible for what and if you are older or have certain other afflictions, an economist will determine if you are worthy of the government’s “investment” in your longevity. That’s right, a bureaucrat will be making life or death decisions.

As a factual matter, Vitter’s policy argument is ridiculous and blatantly dishonest. As Matt Yglesias explained, “This is what’s so frustrating about the health reform debate — instead of arguing the merits of the provisions that are actually in the bills, we’re arguing the merits of made-up fake provisions.”

But it’s also a testament to what kind of person David Vitter is. In his personal life, he hires prostitutes, cheats on his wife, and uses his political office to tout “family values.” In his professional life, he lies to his own supporters about the biggest policy debate of the day.

“I think, quite frankly, character is displayed in a variety of different ways.” That’s true, but the ways in which Vitter is displaying character remain elusive.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.