Sen. David Vitter, a leading Christian social conservative

The Republican lawmaker from Louisiana has a long and impressive record of using the power of the law to impose moral righteousness.

By Glenn Greenwald

Published July 10, 2007 12:09PM (EDT)

(updated below)

Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana was not merely a supporter of last year's proposed constitutional amendment to "protect the sanctity of traditional marriages" by amending our Constitution to ban same-sex marriages, but he was one of its chief sponsors (if you haven't heard today's news about Vitter, click the link on his name). And not only was Vitter one of its chief sponsors, he was also one of the nation's most extremist supporters of the amendment. This is what he said during last year's debate over that amendment:

I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one.

To Vitter, there is not a single issue more important than amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriages. Not a single one. That is the most important issue there is in the United States. Whatever one's views are on same-sex marriages and the like, just imagine what has to happen in a person's life in order to make them think banning them is the Most Important Issue in the United States.

Same-sex marriages are, to Vitter, no different than natural disasters which destroy the lives of thousands of his constituents:

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, speaking at a Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee luncheon, referred to hurricanes Katrina and Rita coming through the same areas as a same-sex marriage.

In his statements at the luncheon, Vitter referred to the impact of both hurricanes on the Lafayette area. "Unfortunately, it's the crossroads where Katrina meets Rita," said Vitter. "I always knew I was against same-sex unions."

Vitter's moral center is not something he developed only recently. No. It is rock solid, something he "always knew." Once the amendment failed to pass, Vitter solemnly observed:

Eventually, Congress is going to have to catch up to the wisdom of the American people or the American people will change Congress for the better.

Senator David Vitter, Fighter for the Moral Wisdom of the American People. This is what the Religious Freedom Coalition said about Vitter in December 2003 when he announced he was running for the Senate:

A good friend of social conservatives, Republican Congressman David Vitter of Louisiana has announced he will run for the seat being vacated by Senator Breaux. Congressman Vitter is pro-life and a true social conservative.

Vitter's desire to use the law to impose his rock-solid traditional morality is not confined only to marriage. No, in general, he "[was] one of the most conservative Republicans in the House," as he also "loathes gambling and rarely votes against his party or the president" (although his deeply moral opposition to gambling may be as authentic as his commitment to Traditional Marriage, given that his anti-gambling crusades were fueled in part by some Jack Abramoff money designed to attack some gambling interests in order to help Abramoff's gambling clients).

When he was elected to the Senate, James Dobson's Focus on the Family celebrated his victory in its newsletter (.pdf) to its members, announcing: "David Vitter, the Christian Conservative, became the first Republican to win a Louisiana Senate seat since Reconstruction." Vitter is not, of course, the first Fallen Christian Political Crusader from the Bayou State. This is how Vitter got his start in Washington politics: "Vitter won a special election in 1999 to succeed [Southern Republican] Congressman [and House Speaker] Bob Livingston, who resigned the House after an adultery scandal."

David Vitter stands aside other Towering Icons of the Great Social Conservative Movement, those moral stalwarts who are defending The Institution of Traditional Marriage in our country -- he stands with Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Fred Thompson, and Vitter's chosen presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani, about whom Vitter assured his worried Values Voter constituency: "it's very clear to me that he's not running for president to advance any liberal social agenda." From National Journal's Hotline: "We asked Vitter what 'a liberal social agenda' was, and he said it included 'social issues.'"

Pictured: sponsors of the Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriages (l to r: GOP Sens. Brownback, Burns, Vitter, Sessions and Thune):

[By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post]

UPDATE: One of the most revealing stories ever written about Vitter was this lengthy profile by Mary Jacoby in Salon as Vitter's election to the Senate in 2004 appeared certain. This is how Jacoby described Vitter and his campaign:

A family-values far-right conservative named David Vitter appears headed for victory on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate race in Louisiana. . . . He presents himself as a morally righteous, clean-cut family man, and his wife and three young children have become virtual campaign props. . . .

As for his background, she noted:

In Congress, Vitter became a reliable vote for the extreme right, earning a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union in 2002. He vowed to outlaw abortion in almost all cases, even when pregnancy results from rape or incest; his only exception was to save the life of the mother. And -- with an eye on the governor's office -- he continued the crusade against gambling that he'd started in 1993 with the ethics complaint against Gov. Edwin Edwards.

But most amazing of all is this charming incident that occurred back in 1999, when Bill Clinton's adultery was on the mind of every good, righteous, Southern Republican Christian Values Voter:

As Vitter geared up in 2002 to run for governor, his bitter race against Treen came back to haunt him. A Treen supporter, local Republican Party official Vincent Bruno, blurted out on a radio show that he believed Vitter had once had an extramarital affair.

The Louisiana Weekly newspaper followed up. Bruno told the paper that the young woman had contacted the Treen campaign in 1999 because she was upset that Vitter was portraying himself as a family-values conservative and trotting out his wife and children for campaign photo ops. Bruno, who declined to comment for this story, and John Treen interviewed the woman, who said she had worked under the name "Leah."

But after nearly a year of regular paid assignations with Vitter, the lawmaker asked her to divulge her real name, according to Treen, citing the account he said she gave him. Her name was Wendy Cortez, Treen said. She said Vitter's response was electric. "He said, 'Oh, my God! I can't see you anymore," John Treen told me, citing the woman's account to him and noting that Vitter's wife is also named Wendy. And Wendy Vitter does not appear to be the indulgent type.

Asked by an interviewer in 2000 whether she could forgive her husband if she learned he'd had an extramarital affair, as Hillary Clinton and Bob Livingston's wife had done, Wendy Vitter told the Times-Picayune: "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."

Indeed. The one group in this country most offended by Bill Clinton's dalliances were the salt-of-the-earth Southern Christian conservative voters for whom family values and traditional marriages are the most pressing political issue. Jacoby also noted this in her article:

Vitter, Bruno and others interviewed the alleged prostitute several times in 1999. She also met with a respected local television reporter, Richard Angelico, the Louisiana Weekly said. But Angelico declined to run with the story after she would not agree to go on camera, the paper said. Vitter denied the allegations.

But shortly before the Louisiana Weekly was set to publish its story, he dropped out of the governor's race, saying he needed to deal with marital problems. "Our [marriage] counseling sessions have ... led us to the rather obvious conclusion that it's not time to run for governor," Vitter said at the time.

So, to recap: in Louisiana, Vitter carried on a year-long affair with a prostitute in 1999. Then he ran for the House as a hard-core social conservative family values candidate, parading around his wife and kids as props and leading the public crusade in defense of traditional marriage.

Then, in Washington, he became a client of Deborah Palfrey's. Then he announced that amending the Constitution to protect traditional marriage was the most important political priority the country faces. Rush Limbaugh, Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich supported the same amendment.

As always, it is so striking how many Defenders of Traditional Marriage have a record in their own broken lives of shattered marriages, multiple wives and serial adultery. And they never seek to protect the Sacred Institution of Traditional Marriage by banning the un-Christian and untraditional divorces they want for themselves when they are done with their wives and are ready to move on to the next, newer model. Instead, they only defend these Very Sacred Values by banning the same-sex marriages that they don't want for themselves.

UPDATE II: I assumed, but probably shouldn't have, that everyone had heard the news about Vitter that prompted this post. If you haven't, you can read it here.

Glenn Greenwald

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