David Vitter, Would-Be Freedom Fighter

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So Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter shows up on the phone records of the DC Madam and everyone wants to know what effect this will have on Rudy Giuliani. Matthew Yglesias wants to know something else:

It's really too bad that when politicians get caught doing stuff that shouldn't be illegal, they never, ever, ever seem to respond by redoubling their efforts to reduce the criminalization of victimless conduct. Does Vitter think Vitter should go to jail? Does he think the hookers he had sex with should go to jail? If not, then doesn't he think he should use his authority as one of the guys who gets to write the laws to create a more just legal system?

For a contrary view check out famed Reasonoid Jeremy Lott on why hypocrisy is the bee's knees.

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  1. Yglesias seems to be asking pointless questions – I doubt either prostitutes or their clients regularly do much jail time. Vitter also in his statement basically affirms that he did something illegal, so I don’t know why he’s a hypocrite for not working to make prostitution legal.

  2. Lott has positively nothing intelligent to say in that interview. Hypocrisy is good because?. the things it defends are good?. because? I believe they’re good? and? I’m trying to sell books here people by sounding profound! PLEASE!!! VALIDATE ME!!!

  3. I doubt either prostitutes or their clients regularly do much jail time.

    Interesting assertion. Got any facts?

  4. “This is a family matter. We ask that you respect our privacy. This is between our God and family. We need to get him the help he needs.” See Al Gore / son or Jeb Bush / daughter for some recent examples. That is great. How about for the rest of us? I wonder why Jeb didn’t think jail was the best option for his daughter, since he thinks it is the best option for the average joe.

  5. but bb! Don’t you get it!? That hypocrisy is GOOD!…. I just don’t understand why.

  6. “Does Vitter think Vitter should go to jail?”

    He doesn’t but not for the reason you think. I am sure Vitter doesn’t think he should go to jail because he is special and the rules that apply to normal people shouldn’t apply to him. Should your average guy caught with a hooker go to jail in Vitter’s eyes, absolutely. Vitter shouldn’t because in his eyes he is special and not subject to the rules average people are subject to. Such is the state of our political class.

  7. You have failed to consider the possibility that the “hypocrisy is good” thesis is, itself, hypocritical and thus self-justifying.

  8. One more candidate for rehab and salvation.

  9. Interesting assertion. Got any facts?

    I think the burden should be on Yglesias for his implication that had Vitter been a regular citizen he’d be in prison for his crime of having his name appear in somebody’s address book.

  10. D.A……that one has my head spinning.

  11. He doesn’t but not for the reason you think. I am sure Vitter doesn’t think he should go to jail because he is special and the rules that apply to normal people shouldn’t apply to him. Should your average guy caught with a hooker go to jail in Vitter’s eyes, absolutely. Vitter shouldn’t because in his eyes he is special and not subject to the rules average people are subject to. Such is the state of our political class.

    More like “such is human nature”. Few of us would rather be punished than avoid punishment.

  12. “I think the burden should be on Yglesias for his implication that had Vitter been a regular citizen he’d be in prison for his crime of having his name appear in somebody’s address book.”

    He wouldn’t be. But if an average citizen were caught in a sting operation for doing exactly what Vitter did, he would certainly be arrested, have his name in the paper and reputation dragged through the mud and get a criminal conviction on his record even though he probably wouldn’t do any jail time. The point is that it would be interesting to see if Vitter in his heart of hearts thinks that he deserves such a punishment for seeing a hooker. If he doesn’t and my guess is that he doesn’t, why doesn’t he feel the obligation to change the law in order to spare other people such unjust punishments?

  13. “More like “such is human nature”. Few of us would rather be punished than avoid punishment.”

    Sometimes but there are people who admit what they did was wrong and take their punishment. It has happened. There is nothing to stop Vitter from doing so or in the alternative admitting that prostitution should not be illegal.

  14. Final score: Yglesias-1, Lott-0.

  15. “Few of us would rather be punished than avoid punishment.”

    I’d assert that the people who would pay to be punished are overrepresented (w.r.t. society at large) in the group of people named in the book. The difference is that they’d rather be punished by an attractive, educated woman instead of a gang of drooling, musclebound morons with big mustaches.

    No evidence… just a hunch.

  16. It would be a truly interesting time if we ever saw politicians seek power for the ability to exericise that power to accomplish something.

    Instead, they seek power to use that power to gain more power. Anything that gets accomplished is incidental to the process.

    Given that model of governance, the first objective of any politician is to find the appropriate demographic to sell his or her loyalty to in order to acquire power. The fact that the goals of the chosen demographic might actually conflict with the personal habits of the politician is not relevant.

  17. I think the burden should be on Yglesias for his implication that had Vitter been a regular citizen he’d be in prison for his crime of having his name appear in somebody’s address book.

    Well, there would have to be more evidence than being in an address book. But that’s not too difficult to handle. Offer the Madam a reduced sentence if she agrees to testify against said regular citizen in court, charge the regular citizen with 200 crimes with a mandatory minimum sentence of 362,000 years in prison, then offer the regular citizen a plea bargain where he serves “only” two years in prison and is forced to register as a sex offender.

  18. Sometimes but there are people who admit what they did was wrong and take their punishment. It has happened. There is nothing to stop Vitter from doing so or in the alternative admitting that prostitution should not be illegal.

    Vitter in his statement did admit to doing something wrong. So it’s little wonder that he’s not becoming a pro-prostitution crusader. To my knowledge, he’s not been convicted or even charged with a crime, so it’s difficult to see what punishment he’s avoiding.

  19. Street prostitutes’ clients are almost never arrested and the prostitutes themselves may occasionally be rousted but rarely serve much actual jail time. At the higher end “escort service” level, even arrests are almost unheard of.

    But actual arrest, conviction and incarceration statistics are a bit beside the point. The more relevant question is what Vitter did, in fact, advocate prior to being outed here?

  20. Barris –

    His statements now are irrelevant. The real hypocrisy took place during whatever period of time passed during which he employed the services of prostitutes but failed to advocate that prostitution be legal. He doesn’t get to go back in time and undo that contradiction.

    The fact that he engaged in the conduct constitutes an affirmative statement of approval of the conduct, as far as I am concerned. “He admitted it was wrong,” doesn’t cut it with me. If we were talking about some act of violence for which he later felt remorse, I might entertain his current admission. I might even believe that he feels remorse to his wife for his adultery. But I do not and will not accept that his current statement constitutes a change of his viewpoint on prostitution itself, which seems to have been “Yes, please,” in the past.

  21. Vitter could be a freedom fighter; D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey arguably is already. Her legal defense fund has a web site. Unfortunately, its server is down as I write, so I don’t know what’s there.

  22. Vitter also in his statement basically affirms that he did something illegal, so I don’t know why he’s a hypocrite for not working to make prostitution legal.

    It matters not what he says now that he has been “outed”. If he TRULY thought what he was doing was so bad and should be illegal he wouldn’t have done it to begin with.

    He’s a hypocrite for doing engaging in illegal activity while serving in an elected public office. Whatever he says after he gets caught doing it is completely irrelevant.

    Furthermore, by virtue of the fact that he was doing it to begin with, he must not believe that neither he nor the prostitute must be doing something that bad, else he would have avoided it entirely, no?

  23. For once I agree with Chicago Tom. Since Vitter saw a hooker, he either believes that doing so isn’t bad, in which case he should be honest and argue for its legalization or he knows it is bad and just doesn’t give a shit or thinks that the rules of right and wrong don’t apply to him like they do for everyone else, in which case he ought to be thrown out of office. It is one or the other.

  24. Barris –

    His statements now are irrelevant. The real hypocrisy took place during whatever period of time passed during which he employed the services of prostitutes but failed to advocate that prostitution be legal. He doesn’t get to go back in time and undo that contradiction.

    The fact that he engaged in the conduct constitutes an affirmative statement of approval of the conduct, as far as I am concerned. “He admitted it was wrong,” doesn’t cut it with me. If we were talking about some act of violence for which he later felt remorse, I might entertain his current admission. I might even believe that he feels remorse to his wife for his adultery. But I do not and will not accept that his current statement constitutes a change of his viewpoint on prostitution itself, which seems to have been “Yes, please,” in the past.

    I guess you’re saying that nobody can do something that they believe is wrong? That’s an interesting viewpoint, but I think most people would reject it. Isn’t that the legal definition of insanity in criminal cases, the inability to understand that certain actions are wrong?

    Vitter may be a hypocrite, if he in fact believes that prostitution is morally okay but claims to believe otherwise. But I contend that its entirely possible for a person’s deeds to conflict with their moral beliefs.

    Perhaps he simply gave in to temptation, in other words.

  25. For once I agree with Chicago Tom. Since Vitter saw a hooker, he either believes that doing so isn’t bad, in which case he should be honest and argue for its legalization or he knows it is bad and just doesn’t give a shit or thinks that the rules of right and wrong don’t apply to him like they do for everyone else, in which case he ought to be thrown out of office. It is one or the other.

    Come on, John. What person could possibly hold office under this standard?

  26. barris,

    Nothing you’re saying is denying that Vitter is a sack of shit, which is the point of the original post, I believe.

  27. Hello Dan. How’s the trolling coming along with the new screen name?

  28. barris,

    So, you don’t have a problem with holders of public office committing egregious violations of the law? This isn’t a freakin speeding ticket.

    Also, before the age of ubiquitous Internet porn, I could have seen someone going to a prostitute out of weakness. Vitter could have gone the Mark Foley route and quenched his desires in the virtual world, but instead he chose to do so in the world of quarks and leptons.

  29. “What person could possibly hold office under this standard?”

    Are you saying that everyone is a hypocrite? Lack of hypocrisy might be inconceivable in your worldview, but not mine.

  30. Hello Dan. How’s the trolling coming along with the new screen name?

    It seems to be working pretty well. At least the opinions posted under this user name have been my own. So far.

  31. I guess you’re saying that nobody can do something that they believe is wrong? That’s an interesting viewpoint, but I think most people would reject it.

    Really? You think most people would reject the assertion that : people tend to behave (under normal voluntary circumstances) in ways that believe are right and avoid behaving in ways that they believe are wrong?

    Most peoples’ actions are governed by their personal moral code. Normal people don’t behave in ways that run counter to their personal belief system.

    Isn’t that the legal definition of insanity in criminal cases, the inability to understand that certain actions are wrong?

    Are you implying that a sitting state Senator is insane? And can’t tell the difference between right and wrong?

    This is the worst example you could pick because it invalidates your whole point. Only insane/sociopathic people behave in ways that go against what they know or believe to be wrong/improper (or can’t tell the difference between right and wrong).

    Granted, Sen. Vitter may in fact be insane. And once that comes to light I will retract my criticism, but barring mental illness, he obviously doesn’t think paying for sex is a problem or else he wouldn’t engage in such behavior.

    Come on, John. What person could possibly hold office under this standard?

    Anyone who isn’t a hypocrite? My my you have a might low bar for expected behavior on the part of people in a position of power. I tend to hold those people to higher standards.

  32. Are you saying that everyone is a hypocrite? Lack of hypocrisy might be inconceivable in your worldview, but not mine.

    No, rather that John is saying that everybody who commits a wrongdoing is a hypocrite unless they forever say that what they did was not wrong. Which pretty much renders the term meaningless.

  33. I guess you’re saying that nobody can do something that they believe is wrong? That’s an interesting viewpoint, but I think most people would reject it.

    Actually, what I’m saying is that except in very limited cases where one acts under a temporary extreme disturbance committing the act invalidates one’s spoken statement that the act is wrong. The deed is mightier than the word.

    If you say you think murder is wrong but routinely murder people in cold blood over trivialities, you don’t really think murder is wrong and your statement is false.

    Isn’t that the legal definition of insanity in criminal cases, the inability to understand that certain actions are wrong?

    If you look at the test employed to determine if the criminal is competent, it’s not really designed to determine if you know the act is wrong – it’s designed to determine if you know the act is illegal and that there will be consequences if you undertake it. If the standard was knowledge of wrongness virtually every academic philosopher in the nation could plead insanity on the basis of aporeia.

  34. Really? You think most people would reject the assertion that : people tend to behave (under normal voluntary circumstances) in ways that believe are right and avoid behaving in ways that they believe are wrong?

    I agree that they tend to behave that way, you’re saying that they always behave that way.

    Or actually you’re using the circular argument that a person’s actions reveal their sense of morality because their sense of morality dictates their actions.


    Most peoples’ actions are governed by their personal moral code. Normal people don’t behave in ways that run counter to their personal belief system.

    Sure they do. Ever heard of the concept of “temptation”?

    Are you implying that a sitting state Senator is insane? And can’t tell the difference between right and wrong?

    No, that’s what you’re saying. I’m saying that he could feel that visiting hookers is wrong but does it anyway.

    Using your logic, nobody could ever be convicted of a crime because the very fact they committed the crime indicates that they’re too insane to understand it was wrong.

    Anyone who isn’t a hypocrite? My my you have a might low bar for expected behavior on the part of people in a position of power. I tend to hold those people to higher standards.

    But according to you and John, a person is either a hypocrite or perfect.

  35. As a man who had a roommate whose cousin’s friend used to frequent establishments purveying sex for pay, I think the general arguement against hypocrisy is too easy. A better example of hypocrisy than Vitter is my roommate cousin’s friend who believes that he and the females he buys are free to do what they want, but that he should dissuade his daughter from taking up the profession, as well as not stating his opinion to his female boss, or that in no way are the women employeed not enjoying their jobs

  36. Or actually you’re using the circular argument that a person’s actions reveal their sense of morality because their sense of morality dictates their actions.

    That’s not circular at all. Each act in a series requires a discrete decision to undertake the act. This is true whether you verbalize it to yourself or not. “Should I call a hooker? Yes. Should I go to where the hooker is? Yes. Should I give money to this hooker? Yes. Should I fuck this hooker? Yes.” Your actions make this internal process of decision visible and are themselves sufficient proof that you have so decided.

    I don’t think the two choices are “hypocrite” or “perfect”, actually. The problem is that you are used to the scoring system used by Christianity, which includes quite a few rules that are either impossible [its open-ended altruism, which was fulfilled only by Christ when you get right down to it, and he died to do so] or crack-brained [most if its sexual ethics]. When you set up a system where people are induced to verbally acknowledge that a bunch of things are wrong despite the fact that they really want to do these things even when they aren’t in the sway of some extreme disturbance, you’re creating fertile grounds for hypocrisy.

  37. If not, then doesn’t he think he should use his authority as one of the guys who gets to write the laws to create a more just legal system?

    Aren’t prostitution laws passed by individual states?

  38. I agree that they tend to behave that way, you’re saying that they always behave that way.

    Or actually you’re using the circular argument that a person’s actions reveal their sense of morality because their sense of morality dictates their actions.

    Notice the word “tend to” in my original statement. Notice the lack of any absolutes like “always”.

    I’m not using any circular logic. I am merely positing that peoples actions tend to go hand in hand with their beliefs. People act in ways the consider moral.

    Sure they do. Ever heard of the concept of “temptation”?

    If you think something is “bad” then what is “tempting” about it?

    Something tends to become tempting to you because someone else has forbidden it or stated that it’s bad, but you don’t really think it is, and in fact think it would be a good thing — at least for you.

    Or people may be tempted to do something irresponsible — but I doubt most people are “tempted” by things they truly believe are immoral.

    Using your logic, nobody could ever be convicted of a crime because the very fact they committed the crime indicates that they’re too insane to understand it was wrong.

    Not at all. The fact that they committed the crime would lend credence to the fact that they personally don’t find the action that immoral. Their personal morals are of no consequence when deciding to punish those who commit things

    But according to you and John, a person is either a hypocrite or perfect.

    Not quite, either a person is a hypocrite, or isn’t one.

  39. I think I understand what barris is trying to say, almost, but I don’t think I agree with it on a deeper level. I mean, I’m sure I do things that I “know aren’t right” or “don’t think are right” or whatever, but those both require a conscious evaluation of the correctness of the action. There’s also the question of how you define “right,” whether it’s in a moral sense (independent of the opinions of others) or a societal sense (illegal? approval?).

    That’s why I probably wouldn’t jump to judge your roommate’s cousin, daniel k, as a hypocrite for all the reasons you listed. There’s knowing what’s right (morally), and then there’s knowing what would happen to you if you told your boss about it, or knowing the social hardships that your daughter would have to go through if she decided to sell her body. Expressing personal opinion through encouraging or discouraging is not hypocritical to the idea that someone has the right to live how they want.

  40. A better example of hypocrisy than Vitter is my roommate cousin’s friend who believes that he and the females he buys are free to do what they want, but that he should dissuade his daughter from taking up the profession, as well as not stating his opinion to his female boss, or that in no way are the women employeed not enjoying their jobs

    I dunno if that’s hypocrisy.

    I like strip clubs, but I would prefer that if I have a daughter she not be a stripper. I also would hope she doesn’t become a garbage collector either. I would want for my children to go into challenging fields where they can work with their minds rather than some kind of physical labor. Of course the choice will be their own, but I can have my own preferences.

    And I wouldn’t tell my female boss or anyone in a position of power over me about many of my personal beliefs about subjects that are traditionally considered taboo.

    Avoiding those topics is just common sense

  41. Reinmoose said it better than I did.

  42. At least the opinions posted under this user name have been my own. So far.

    Considering the demonstrated foolishness of your own opinions, that may not be such a good thing.

  43. “Aren’t prostitution laws passed by individual states?”

    Not DC’s prostitution laws. Those are set by the US Congress- right now that power is delegated to DC as home rule, but the authority belongs to the Congress.

  44. I think I understand what barris is trying to say, almost, but I don’t think I agree with it on a deeper level. I mean, I’m sure I do things that I “know aren’t right” or “don’t think are right” or whatever, but those both require a conscious evaluation of the correctness of the action. There’s also the question of how you define “right,” whether it’s in a moral sense (independent of the opinions of others) or a societal sense (illegal? approval?).

    Let me phrase it this way – almost every action that is generally considered to be “wrong” is one that in some way provides a benefit to the person performing it. We all agree that stealing is wrong, but we also can all understand that stealing provides a benefit to the theif, for example. And with a little imagination we can also think of scenarios where the benefit of stealing something would outweigh the “wrongness” of the act.

    For example, if you’re starving you would probably be willing to steal food. But by stealing that food, you are not necessarily taking the position that theft is moral.

    You’re saying that the benefits of immorality in that situation outweighed the benefits of morality.

    Something like prostitution is a little tricker since there is no direct victim like in theft, so it’s easier to rationalize. Vitter may feel that there is nothing at all wrong with it and thus he would be a hypocrite for saying otherwise. But it’s equally possible that he simply choose the benefits of immoral behavior over the benefits of moral behavior.

  45. If you think something is “bad” then what is “tempting” about it?

    Something tends to become tempting to you because someone else has forbidden it or stated that it’s bad, but you don’t really think it is, and in fact think it would be a good thing — at least for you.

    Or people may be tempted to do something irresponsible — but I doubt most people are “tempted” by things they truly believe are immoral.

    _______________________________________________

    Of course people are tempted to do things they think are immoral. That is what temptation is. We strive to be good people but the temptations of the flesh are strong and hard to resist. Same with gambling, excessive drinking or many other activities. But sex is the major one. Many many people do sexual things (cheat on spouses, go to hookers, view porn etc.) that they feel are immoral but are not strong enough to resist. Catholic theology (Vitter is Catholic) believes that humans are imperfect and sinful and that life is a constant struggle between doing good and sinning. Sin and redemption is what Christianity is all about.

    The problem with you secular types is that you are unforgiving and harsh. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  46. I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

    It is hard to see how someone knowingly breaking the law in a jurisdiction that he or she has control over as a member of the US Senate can be seen as being faithful to the Oath of Office for the Senate.

    This makes the man a complete prick, in my humble opinion.

  47. me –
    umm… nobody here is condemning Vitter for being a sinner. It is perhaps a stretch to say that he must think that soliciting prostitutes is OK, but us “secular types” aren’t looking at the value of what he did. We’re looking at his response to being exposed for said action.

    If he thinks that he shouldn’t go to jail for this, does he think that everyone else should go to jail for this? If so, he’s a hypocrite. If not, he needs to show this by acting like a freakin legislator and working to decriminalize things that he doesn’t see as criminal offenses.

    That’s all most people here are saying. Pretty easy.

  48. Exactly, Reinmoose. Wait and see what punishment Vitter and his supporters deem appropriate for his self-described “sin.”

    We all know they’ll push for leniency. After all, the political class shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of their own legislation.

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