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Friday, October 30, 2015

Vitter contradicted his own ad

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 11:20 AM


Sen. David Vitter's TV ad blasting runoff opponent John Bel Edwards for allegedly planning to release "thugs...into our neighborhoods" is not only misleading, it also belies the senator's own statement about bipartisan incarceration reforms just a month ago in a statewide TV debate. In that debate, Vitter said, "We warehouse way too many nonviolent criminals in Louisiana."

The Vitter ad attempts to link Edwards to President Barack Obama, who likewise supports the reforms (as do scores of Republicans). The ad falsely claims that Edwards would free 5,500 hardened criminals from Louisiana jails and send “dangerous thugs, drug dealers, back into our neighborhoods.”

Interestingly, the ad also contradicts what Vitter himself said on Oct. 1 in the WDSU-TV debate — which was one of only two live TV debates that Vitter attended during the primary. In response to a query about legalizing marijuana, Vitter said, “We warehouse way too many nonviolent criminals in Louisiana.”

That’s precisely the rationale for the bipartisan incarceration reforms that Edwards and every other major candidate for governor endorsed — along with high profile business, civic, religious and political leaders from both parties all across America.

Vitter’s ad was blasted as racist by columnist Bob Mann and the New Orleans NAACP, which demanded that Vitter take it down. The latter criticism is probably just what Vitter wanted — black people attacking him. That scenario plays into Vitter’s strategy of making the runoff a race about race. It remains to be seen if that strategy will work.

The ad drew even sharper criticism from a source that Vitter may not have anticipated: veteran conservative columnist Jim Beam of the Lake Charles American Press. Beam, one of the state’s most respected political writers, compared Vitter to another reckless Republican U.S. senator, the late Joe McCarthy.

Beam’s Oct. 29 column pulled no punches in labeling the ad “misleading and malicious … slanted and vicious.” Beam noted that Vitter “has a consistent history of campaigning against other public figures rather than telling voters what he wants to do for them.” He concluded with the words that sent McCarthy into political oblivion in the 1950s: “Have you no sense of decency?”

The Louisiana Sheriffs Association followed up with a news conference on Friday, Oct. 30, praising Edwards for his record on law enforcement and denouncing the Vitter ad as bunk and “silly.” Edwards called Vitter “a desperate man … [who] excels at division.” The sheriffs are expected to be just the first wave of runoff endorsements for Edwards.

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