Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) apologized last night after his telephone number appeared in the phone records of the woman dubbed the “D.C. Madam,” making him the first member of Congress to become ensnared in the high-profile case.
To be clear I don’t have that much problem with the kind of services that Palfrey offered – prosecutors say that the brokered high-end prostitution, Palfrey claims that her employees offered BDSM-style “sex play.” That said, being illegal nearly everywhere and certainly in DC, paying for sex should ding the credibility of anybody whose job it is to write laws. I think in general that it’s silly to criminalize prostitution, but as long as legislators see fit to ban it for the rest of us they have a certain responsibility to respect the ban themselves. Legal “sex play,” bondage etc., really doesn’t bother me at all.
But there’s the rub: far more than for Democrats, Republicans put themselves forward as moral avatars, righteous defenders of the sort of theocratic values that gets their evangelical base warm and flushed. If an equal number of Democrats and Republicans turned up on Palfrey’s list the GOP base would find itself in a far more punishing mood than the Democrats’. I have little doubt that GOP pols will predominate (there were more of them during Palfrey’s time, they had more power and in my experience people who wear their piety on their sleeve are usually overcompensating). But even if they don’t, the devil’s bargain that Republicans made with the evangelical community ensures that the pain will be mostly theirs.
Having no fondness for the GOP or the moral scolds in their base, that situation suits me just fine.
Another wrinkle to the story:
Vitter was the first senator to endorse former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani for president and serves as the campaign’s Southern regional chairman.
Sen. Vitter is far from the most embarrassing Giuliani associate in the news lately. Setting aside Giuliani’s comically criminal and incompetent sidekick Bernie Kerik, Steve Benen recently noted that Giuliani’s South Carolina campaign chair was indicted on cocaine charges and Monsignor Alan Placa, an ongoing consultant at Giuliani Partners, has a long history of alleged pedophilia and played an instrumental role in covering up for other abusive priests. It’s like the Legion of Doom in there.