From the beginning of his political career 16 years ago, Senator David Vitter has been known for efforts to plant himself on the moral high ground, challenging the ethics of other Louisiana politicians, decrying same-sex marriage and depicting himself as a clean-as-a-whistle champion of family values.
“I’m a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history,” Mr. Vitter, a 46-year-old Republican, wrote in a letter last year to The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans daily.
That self-created image, a political winner here since 1991, when Mr. Vitter joined the Louisiana House, took a tumble Monday with the disclosure that his phone number was among those on a list of client numbers kept by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, who is accused of running a prostitution ring in Washington.
Ah, but people are human right? Everybody's entitled to make a mistake, right?
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.
It would seem that Sen. Vitter has difficulty learning from his own mistakes.
Here's Glenn Greenwald again, noting on the unusual frequency with which this happens on the right:
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.
It is striking actually. Why are members of the party that purports to stand for conservative social values-such as not sleeping with prostitutes or anyone who isn't your wife-seem to be so unusually prone to doing just that? There's really no different standard after all. It's not as if Democratic politicians can fool around and get away with it because people expect moral relativist liberals to behave that way anyway. So what's the reason? Here's Bob Altemeyer, author of "The Authoritarians" with a passage that I think helps to explain this odd phenomenon:
...social scientists have concentrated on understanding authoritarian followers, because the followers constitute the bigger problem in the long run and present the bigger mystery. But after Pratto and Sidanius developed a measure that could identify dominating personalities, and as we came to understand the followers better and better, attention naturally shifted to figuring out the leaders, and especially how the two meshed together.
...huge differences exist between these two parts of an authoritarian system in (1) their desire for power, (2) their religiousness, (3) the roots of their aggression, and (4) their thinking processes.
...like most people in my samples, most dominators only go to church for marrying and burying. This would be “Three strikes and ye’re out” as far as the religiously ethnocentric high RWAs are concerned except for one thing. Dominators can easily pretend to be religious, saying the right words and claiming a deep personal belief and, as we saw in chapter 3, gullible right-wing authoritarians will go out on almost any limb, walk almost any plank to believe them.So some non-religious dominators, as part of the act, do go to church regularly,for manipulative reasons. This amounts to lying, but I hope you don’t think social dominators would never, ever, ever, tell a lie.
Social dominators...admit, anonymously, to striving to manipulate others, and to being dishonest, two-faced, treacherous, and amoral. It’s as if someone took the Scout Law (“A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, ...”) and turned it completely upside down: “A ‘winner’ is deceitful, manipulative, unfair, base, conniving, ...” Furthermore, while the...followers may feel admiration bordering on adoration of their leaders, we should not be surprised if the leaders feel a certain contempt for their followers. They are the suckers, the “marks,” the fools social dominators find so easy to manipulate.
As Altermeyer explains in another part of his book, the right tends to attract people like this because it also attracts the most guillable people, the people who can most easily be fooled by what he refers to as "social dominators" (his term for people who'll do just about anything to get to the top.) Of course this doesn't mean that every hypocritical adulterer in the Republican Party is a social dominator willing to lie his way to the top. After all, Sen. Vitter's intense opposition to what he regards as other people's moral failings could merely be a bizarre expression of self-hatred towards his own failings that is beyond the scope of Altermeyer's thesis. But since the right tends to attract more people like these dominators, it only makes sense that some of these guys don't really value traditional marriage at all, at least in their practice of it, but make a great show of it because that's what gets people on the right to vote for them. Now one would think that people who place such high priority on moral values would immediately reject leaders who appear to be lacking in them, but they don't. Altermeyer explains that too, but we'll save that for another day.
Lest I lead you to believe that Altermeyer's book is some sort of grand unified theory on the right and how it functions, I will say that his book explains the phenomenon of authoritarian leaders and followers only in the most general of ways. His conclusions are not meant to apply fully to every person who votes or runs Republican. But as general explanations his conclusions are very helpful and I can't help but think and refer back to his book as I read about some of the behavior on the right. So I'll probably continue referring to it in the future as the opportunities arise.
So, don't be surprised if in the future even more Republican hypocrites are exposed, and yet continue to operate as leaders of some kind in their party. It's just the way things work over there.
UPDATE: When it rains, it pours...especially for hypocritical stewards of family values.