Next year’s Senate race between David Vitter and Charlie Melancon hasn’t really gotten started yet. But as a piece by Bruce Alpert in today’s Times-Picayune illustrates, the voters will have a rare opportunity to make a clear choice between not just competing ideologies but competing styles of the two.
As Alpert writes:
…The bill, introduced Nov. 18, is one of 73 bills that Vitter has offered for the 111th Congress, about average for him. By contrast, Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, his Democratic opponent in next year’s Louisiana Senate race, has introduced only six bills — two congratulating the winner of the Kentucky Derby.
Their records reveal dramatically different approaches to legislating.
Vitter concedes he is an aggressive legislator, jumping on issues that generate public concern, particularly among conservatives, such as domestic terrorist trials, immigration and threats to home schooling.
But Melancon’s staffers say Vitter is grandstanding with bills — some introduced with no co-sponsors — that stand no chance of enactment. By contrast, they say, Melancon works effectively in a bipartisan manner to ensure that legislation heading for enactment is more Louisiana-friendly.
The personal styles of the two are in stark contrast as well, as with Vitter voters get a rather doctrinaire politician whose vote tends not to be for sale but whose personal behavior in the past has been, as he has admitted, regrettable. With Melancon there are no embarrassing personal scandals to date, which is certainly a plus, but it’s a commonly-held perception that he’ll vote against the wishes of his constituents on all issues which don’t directly affect the major industries within his district. Melancon will be energy-friendly, as anyone might expect given his constituency, but he’ll also vote for such anti-free market policies as the auto bailouts.
Vitter may be guilty of political grandstanding at times, as he has authored bills about issues like flag-burning and, recently, a proposed ban on civilian trials for Muslim terrorists at war with America like Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. And it’s a valid statement that the majority of the bills he authors, which usually make very strong conservative policy statements, are wasted in a Senate dominated by left-wing ideologues and opportunistic crooks like Harry Reid, Chris Dodd, Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy.
Melancon doesn’t author much of anything in Congress, by comparison. What he does is shop his vote for pork, or at least attempts to moderate the most damaging effects of Nancy Pelosi’s legislation before (most of the time) supporting it at the end. You can call this “consensus-building” if you want, and you can listen to Melancon when he declares himself “moderate” or “centrist.” At the end of the day, though, if you support Melancon you support the left-wing agenda of Reid, Pelosi and President Barack Obama. Last year, Melancon’s rating by the National Taxpayers’ Union was a pathetic eight percent, making him further to the left than even Dollar Bill Jefferson among the state’s congressional delegation. As an indication of how far from the center Melancon’s record actually is, Jesse Jackson, Jr. was at 12 percent in the NTU survey. Henry Waxman was at 11 percent. John Conyers was at 17 percent. Dennis Kucinich was at 25 percent. And Sheila Jackson-Lee was at 12 percent.
It’s fair to criticize Vitter in fairly severe terms for his dalliances with ladies of the evening, but if you style yourself a moderate when your voting record is to the left of the Waxmans, Kuciniches, Jackson-Lees and Conyerses of the world, you’re flat-out lying to your constituents.
At least Vitter fesses up to his sins and commits them on his own time. Melancon hides the ball from the people of the state and votes to steal money from taxpayers on the floor of the House of Representatives.
The voters of this state will have the opportunity to pick their poison next November. The smart money says Vitter will win in a landslide; if that’s true, the Senate race can be an indication of what kind of leadership Louisiana is really interested in.