In Whole or in Part, a Missing Vitter

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) appears at a New Orleans news conference in 2005. His profile was much lower yesterday. (By Bill Haber -- Associated Press)
By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

David Vitter is missing in action.

Or, to be precise, he is missing because it looks as if he got some action.

Camera crews yesterday staked out the home, office and committee room of the Republican senator from Louisiana, who admitted Monday night that he was in the proverbial little black book of the alleged "D.C. Madam." But the lawmaker was on the lam.

The Senate voted to confirm a federal judge in Michigan. No Vitter.

The public works subcommittee on which Vitter is the ranking Republican held a hearing. No Vitter.

Three Louisiana officials testified at another hearing about Gulf Coast rebuilding. No Vitter.

Republican senators sat down to lunch with Vice President Cheney. No Vitter.

Rumors spread that the senator, present on the Senate floor Monday evening, had fled to the Big Easy -- but his aides ignored phone calls and e-mails throughout the day inquiring about the senator's whereabouts.

In Vitter's defense, he has more than his political future to worry about right now; he could lose his manhood.

His wife, Wendy, told Newhouse News Service in 2000 that if her husband cheated on her, she would react less like Hillary Clinton and more like the Manassas woman who cut off her sleeping husband's penis in 1993. "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary," Wendy Vitter said. "If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me. I think fear is a very good motivating factor in a marriage."

Not good enough, evidently. In 2002, then-Congressman Vitter abandoned a race for governor, saying he and his wife had begun marriage counseling, not "in response to any dramatic issue or event." During his successful 2004 Senate campaign -- in which Vitter declared that "we need a U.S. senator who will stand up for Louisiana values" -- Vitter condemned as "just crass Louisiana politics" the allegation that he had an 11-month tryst with a French Quarter prostitute. But Monday night was different. Vitter issued a statement saying he had "received forgiveness from God and my wife" for his "very serious sin."

Luckily for Vitter, Louisiana voters have a history of leniency. A half-century ago, Gov. Earl Long had his famous affair with the Bourbon Street stripper Blaze Starr. A quarter-century ago, Gov. Edwin Edwards remarked that he would lose only if "caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy." And Vitter himself won election to Congress in 1999 replacing Bob Livingston, who would have been House speaker if his adultery hadn't been discovered by pornographer Larry Flynt -- the same Larry Flynt who apparently forced Vitter's confession.

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