Who is Charlie Melancon?

This piece originally appeared in the Ouachita Citizen

I love old movies. In fact, there are few things I enjoy better than watching movies or sitting around talking about movies.

Our current Senate race provoked a film memory. In 1963, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn starred in Charade, a movie that kept audiences wondering about the integrity of the Hepburn character’s husband —- Charlie. This seemingly benign man had woven a complexity of lies and misinformation to confuse everyone around him. Eventually, the truth was known and the conflict resolved (Hollywood is good about resolving conflict in under two hours).

Lately, I have been wondering about another Charlie — Congressman Charlie Melancon.

When he announced his intention to unseat Sen. David Vitter, he claimed, “I’m a proud fighter for the little guy and the people of my state who are struggling to make ends meet. That’s what Louisiana values are about.”

After hearing this, I assumed, like many, that Melancon was poised to lash out against his own party and hold town hall meetings, listen to citizens and vote the way Louisiana voters wanted. He was going to be a man of principle.

But, like the movie I referenced earlier, Melancon’s commitment to “fighting for the little guy” was a charade. It was a liberal illusion donning moderate clothes to cover his … limitations.

Later, Melancon went on to characterize Vitter as someone who could not be trusted. According to Melancon, “It’s a story we’ve heard over and over — David Vitter talks one way at home, then walks another way in Washington.”

Ok. Since you brought it up, Congressman, let’s talk about two-faced politicians saying anything to get elected.

And, let’s use the single biggest domestic issue in the past 60 years: health care reform.

The “so-called” Blue Dog Democrat was actually one of 34 House Democrats to vote against Obama-care. So maybe Charlie does walk-it like he talks-it.

Oh-no! Enter the facts (stage left if you need a visual).

While Melancon had voted against the bill in the House and made plain he was not going to switch, the Congressman did not cast his “no” vote until the Democrats had 216 votes, the number necessary to ensure passage. Once the outcome was decided, Melancon hit the “no” button as evidenced by the red light next to his name on the big tally board above the press gallery in the House chamber being lit. Not to put too fine a point on it: Charlie Melancon was prepared to vote “yes” until it was clear that he could weasel out and vote “no.” He did not stick up for the little guy, average voters or the people of Louisiana. He played political games in a most duplicitous manner.

Now, what about Vitter?

The following day, he stated, “Last night, against the will of the American people, liberals passed a bill to take over our health care system. This partisan bill — which was passed without the support of a single Republican — violates the constitution and disrespects the legislative process.”

In other words, Vitter (who actually held public hearings across the state) stuck to his values of a smaller, less intrusive government that operates within certain financial constraints. Thus, Vitter began a process to repeal or at least reform this bill that he says, “will compromise the quality of our health care, raise premiums, drastically cut Medicare, increase job-killing taxes, allow for the federal funding of abortions and create a new entitlement program that adds to our increasing deficit. This intrusion of the government into the lives of Americans, with a trillion dollar price tag, is a bill that Americans can’t afford and don’t want.”

That sounds to me like Vitter is sticking up for all of Louisiana. Does that mean that Melancon, a Blue Dog, a conservative Democrat, a moderate, etc … would join hands with Vitter to support a repeal of a measure that he actually voted against?

What do you think? Charlie Melancon showing political fortitude by demonstrating conviction? You must be joking!

This is what he said. He is opposed the health care bill signed into law by President Obama, he does not support efforts to repeal it.

Melancon opposed the legislation because of the projected costs and, in his view, that Obama-care would not curtail catastrophic premiums. Yet he opposes repeal or reform of it.

No doubt Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave Melancon a pass on this one. This was Honest Melancon can have it both ways: to one audience he can claim he voted against Obama-care and to another audience he can claim his party passed Obama-care.

Ethics? Morality? Convictions?

Nope to all of these.

Instead of doing what he said, Melancon took the path of least resistance.

He voted against the bill because it was so bad, but does not favor change. Does that make sense to you? Really?

Maybe I would be better off just watching some more movies. Melancon running for Senate so far is like a poorly scripted farce with B-list actors.

And, at the end of this movie, I do not think I will be any closer to knowing who Melanonc is. Is he for or against Obama-care? What will he do on illegal immigration? Will he flip-flop on cap and trade? Where is he on gay marriage?

I do not think Melancon knows what Melancon believes or will support. Perhaps he is waiting for permission from Speaker (Director) Pelosi before he acts.

After all, do we really want a senator who will go to Washington, D.C. and stick up for Louisiana?

John W. Sutherlin, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He also is co-director at the ULM Social Science Research Lab. He can be reached by e-mailing Sutherlin@ulm.edu.



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