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Vitter Should Resign 

The recent scandal over New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's involvement with a high-priced hooker provided yet another opportunity for U.S. Sen. David Vitter to disgrace himself and our state on the national stage. The Spitzer affair came less than seven months after news that U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, had been busted for lewd conduct in a men's bathroom at the Minneapolis airport. Like the Spitzer scandal, Craig's troubles touched off a round of national opprobrium over Vitter's "very serious sin in my past," which is all Vitter will admit in connection with his repeated phone calls to "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey's alleged prostitution ring. Vitter brought his troubles on himself. Indeed, his sexual escapades in Washington and his alleged trysts with hookers in New Orleans would not even be news had he not set himself up as a moral arbiter of everyone else's behavior. There's the rub. Vitter's truly "serious sin" — the sin that has rendered him virtually useless to Louisiana every day that he remains in the United States Senate — is his shameless hypocrisy, arrogance and cowardice in the face of mounting pressure to resign.

Until recently, Vitter at least had a political rationale for not resigning. When he was first ensnared in the D.C. Madam criminal case last June, Republicans were one vote shy of controlling the U.S. Senate. Had he quit then, Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco, might have named a Democrat as his interim replacement. Now, however, Louisiana has a Republican governor in Bobby Jindal, who can name a Republican to replace Vitter. Thus, there no longer is any rational basis for the GOP to protect Vitter. Indeed, Republicans in and out of New York did not hesitate to demand that Democrat Spitzer resign as that state's governor last week. Like Vitter, Spitzer had been a crusading moralist. Unlike Vitter, Spitzer recognized and admitted his sins, including that of rank hypocrisy. He resigned within days.

David Vitter should do likewise.

We do not take this position lightly, and we are far from alone. Even among conservatives and within the Republican Party, there are voices calling for Vitter's resignation. Christopher Tidmore, a conservative Republican columnist who first broke the story of Vitter's trysts with the local prostitute known as Wendy Cortez, has noted that Vitter's continued presence in the Senate casts "a terrible image across the nation as this state sought recovery dollars, and put the local GOP in a dangerous political position in having to come to Vitter's defense." And last week, Sam Hanna Jr., publisher of three newspapers in north Louisiana, called on Vitter to step down. "There is a limit to the hypocrisy that the American people can stomach," Hanna wrote in the Ouachita Citizen.

We couldn't agree more.

For his part, Vitter tries to distinguish his sin from Spitzer's. Last week, when questioned about Spitzer's resignation and Hanna's call for Vitter's resignation, the senator told the Lafayette Independent, "Anybody who looks at the two cases will see that there is an enormous difference between the two of them. The people that are trying to draw comparisons to the two cases are people who've never agreed with me on important issues like immigration and other things."

That "response" underscores why Vitter is of no use to Louisiana in the U.S. Senate. He completely ignored the question, and then he raised the unrelated issue of immigration in a lame attempt to dodge the real issue. If this is the best he can do, he can do Louisiana no good whatsoever in the Senate. Since the scandal broke, he has made almost no public appearances in Louisiana — depriving his constituents of important opportunities to meet with their senator — and he has gone to great lengths to hide from the press. Meanwhile, he pretends to be hard at work for Louisiana, but most of his "work" involves sending out news releases taking credit for successes that many had a hand in achieving.

Vitter claims that his "very serious sin" is a matter between himself and God, or between him and his family. If he cares so much about his family, he should resign and spend time with his wife and children, helping them heal the wounds that he inflicted. What he must not be allowed to do is continue shaming Louisiana and his party as a United States senator, pretending to be relevant and/or effective. These are the most difficult times our state has faced in at least a century. Louisiana needs two effective senators. We cannot afford one who is constantly distracted by having to cover up his shame.

For the good of Louisiana, for the good of the Republican Party, and for the good of the United States, David Vitter should resign from the United States Senate. Doing so would be his first honorable act since he was exposed last June.

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