3 Congress Critters and Their Tales

Two Republican senators have been in the news lately and not for anything good. David Vitter of Louisiana had his telephone number show up:

in the phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates, the alleged prostitution ring run in the nation’s capital by Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Palfrey, who faces, federal racketeering and conspiracy charges, says she runs a legal escort service. Prosecutors say the business netted more than $2 million from 1993 to 2006.

Vitter, to his credit, admitted his responsibility immediately, saying “This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible.”

This prompted Ms. Palfrey’s lawyer to claim surprise in a way that only a defense attorney could, presumedly with a straight face: “I’m stunned that someone would be apologizing for this.”

How droll. Prostitution is a crime, after all, albeit a trivial one when all involved are acting voluntarily. Apologizing is what Congress critters do when they’re caught doing something they know is wrong. Vitter’s words seem sincere; perhaps that’s the reason he’s been given a pass on the subject.

Not so for Larry Craig of Idaho, who was outed for having solicited sex in the men’s room of a Minneapolis airport bathroom.

Thus far Craig, who quickly pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in an effort to keep the incident quiet, has refused to categorize his behavior as inappropriate, saying “At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct” and “In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis, because of the stress of the Idaho Statesman’s investigation and the rumors it has fueled around Idaho”, referring to that paper’s investigation of rumors about his sexual proclivities.

While not entirely defiant, Craig has not exhibited the humility of Vitter and that’s one reason why he’s been excoriated in the press and abandoned by his Republican colleagues. Craig’s resignation is set for September 30th.

The other reason, of course, is that the action he was allegedly seeking was homosexual in nature.

“My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall,” the officer said in his report.

The senator then tapped his right foot, “a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct,” Karsnia wrote, and Craig ran his left hand several times underneath the partition dividing the stalls.

“The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot, which was within my stall area,” the officer’s report said.

Fairly damning testimony, to the extent that the act of soliciting sex can ever be damning. Unlike the Vitter case there is no evidence of money changing hands. Neither was there any actual sexual contact made in public. While I personally view male homosexual sex as repugnant, I’m somehow unable to see the crime here.
Not surprisingly, liberals have noted the hypocrisy:

Let’s see – one Republican senator is involved in soliciting sex from a man and the Republican leadership calls for a Senate investigation and yanks the rug from underneath him. Another Republican senator admits to soliciting the services of a female prostitute and there’s not only no investigation…

This even as they’ve undoubtedly been enjoying the spectacle of watching Craig, whose voting record was strongly against changes in favor of homosexual rights, twist himself up in a web of his own making.

They have a point, of course, but as I said earlier one difference is Craig’s unrepentant stance in contrast to Vitter’s forthrightness. Another is that Vitter’s presumed use of prostitutes was several years in the past while Craig’s situation is here and now. Still another is that Vitter has already sought and obtained the forgiveness of the one person who matters: his wife. And yet another is the homosexual angle.

Craig should not be forced to resign from the senate because he is gay or even because he tried to pick up a dude in an airport bathroom. A more appropriate punishment would be expulsion from the Republican Party, an organization whose core principles he violated in that stall and has presumedly been violating in private for years.

The third rat caught in a self-made trap is Democrat William Jefferson, a congressman from Louisiana who I wrote about a couple of months ago:
Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana has been indicted on, according to Fox News, “16 counts of bribery, obstruction of justice, wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering”.

From the article:

The indictment says Jefferson received more than $500,000 in bribes and sought millions more in separate schemes to enrich himself by using his office to broker business deals in Africa. The charges came almost two years after investigators raided Jefferson’s home in Washington and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer. If convicted on all charges, Jefferson could face a maximum sentence of 235 years.

None of this is news. Neither is it news that LA voters re-elected Jefferson in 2006 despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt in these crimes. Let it never be said that people don’t get the representation they deserve.

Jefferson has paid, somewhat, for his crimes by being taken off of a key committee in the House. However, he’s still an active member of Congress in spite of his crimes and is presently hiding behind the privilege of his office in denying the FBI use of evidence seized there:

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that an FBI search last year of the congressional office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., violated the Constitution, because neither he nor his lawyer could protect materials they deemed privileged from being taken by the government.

This is hypocrisy of an entirely different order than that of either Vitter or Craig, who, in submitting to what one might call their baser needs, ran afoul of common moral codes.

Jefferson, however, effectively sold the power of his office in exchange for money, something that should be utterly verboten in the halls of Congress. Yet he persists in inflicting himself on America and Democrats, some unhappily, allow him to do so. His crimes are vastly more destructive that Craig’s, though I hesitate to even use the words in reference to the latter, and should be dealt with – and will be, in time, I am confident – with all the weight and force of the legal system.

Where is the moral indignation over William Jefferson’s graft? Is there any?

Referring to David Vitter, Kathleen Blanco, the incompetent governor of Louisiana:

expressed her dismay over Vitter’s admission, saying she was “disappointed” and indicated that efforts to rebuild from the 2005 hurricane season could be stymied by the new scandal.

“I will travel to Washington in the coming weeks to continue my conversations with congressional leaders, and I hope this scandal will not lessen their critical support of our recovery.”

So her inability to manage the aftermath of Katrina is caused by Vitter’s use of call girls? Hilarious. What of Jefferson, who used his official position to extort bribes and influence government officials in Nigeria?
It’s contrasts like the ones seen in the cases of Vitter, Craig, and Jefferson that make the corrupt nature of party politics obvious.

As much as anything it’s this that powers rogue candidates like Ron Paul, Ross Perot, and potentially Michael Bloomberg onto the scene. It’s also what keeps them from being effective at making changes to a dysfunctional system.

Cross-posted at The Van Der Galien Gazette.