Melancon Puts On Show At BR Press Club (UPDATED)

Down big in the latest round of polling, without an issue from which to gain traction on incumbent Republican David Vitter, U.S. Rep Charlie Melancon (D-Napoleonville) took the podium at the Baton Rouge Press Club and flailed away at his opponent with a lusty fervor.

Melancon offered up several choice quotes, which the Baton Rouge Business Report’s Jeremy Alford took down

With U.S. Sen. David Vitter so far dodging appearance requests from the Baton Rouge Press Club, his chief opponent this fall, U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, used most of his one-hour presentation today to attack the incumbent. In fact, Melancon, a Democrat from Napoleonville, opened up the noon meeting by giving out what he called Vitter’s personal cell phone number. Vitter, a Republican from Metairie, supposedly gave the number out during a speech to locally elected officials.

How effective the tactic of passing out your opponent’s cell number to assembled media personages might be as an electoral strategy is a matter for debate; we’re standing by for the Vitter campaign to either give Melancon’s cell number out in turn or demand that he do it himself, else he be tarred as unresponsive to his constituents’ concerns. If nothing else, the digit distribution comes off as rude, and given the lack of movement in the polls Charlie-Boy has generated trying to push personal scandal as the thrust of his campaign one wonders why he’d want to bring in another low-brow move.

In particular, Melancon called Vitter out on several tax votes. He suggested that tea party followers, the lion’s share of which seem to be backing Vitter, should check out the senator’s voting record.

The problem Melancon has in trying to paint Vitter as a tax-and-spend guy is that the folks whose votes might be swayed by such an appeal wouldn’t possibly consider voting for Melancon. Consider that the Club For Growth, perhaps the pre-eminent advocacy group for tax policy and economic freedom, has scored Vitter  between 76 and 90 percent over the course of his time in the Senate. And Vitter has gotten progressively better; in 2008 and 2009 he scored 90 percent after posting a 76 in 2005, a 77 in 2006 and an 83 in 2007. Vitter has also scored four “B+’s” and an “A” in his five years in the Senate, according to the National Taxpayers’ Union. That’s a pretty good record on tax and economic policy.

Melancon? Well, Club For Growth doesn’t like him all that much. His number last year was 43 percent. That was his high-water mark. In 2008, he scored a 1 percent. Yes, that’s right, 1 percent. He scored a 9 percent in 2007, a 42 in 2006 and a 25 percent in 2005, his first year in Congress. Meanwhile, the National Taxpayers’ Union has given Melancon three “D’s” and two “F’s” for his votes, with his best number being a 32 percent score in 2006 (the worst was an 8 percent in 2008). He scored a 22 last year.

He likewise took a jab at Vitter’s Ivy League credentials. “Hey, you can tell a man from Harvard, but you can’t tell him much,” Melancon quipped.

Funny how Melancon votes with most of the folks from Harvard nearly all the time. One supposes the retort is that while the Obama administration can’t tell Vitter much, they can tell Charlie-Boy anything they want and he’ll be happy to oblige them.

As for Vitter’s early promises about family values, Melancon says, “I don’t need to say if that was truthful or not. … Hell, if he hasn’t been honest with his family, then why would he be honest with us?”

Which might well be defensible intellectually, but it’s also a very petty statement and reveals more about Melancon than his opponent – particularly given that the polls are loud and clear in telling anyone who’s interested that Vitter’s personal peccadilloes simply aren’t an operative issue in this campaign. For him to continue making an issue about something Vitter has largely been forgiven for after eight months of futility in basing his campaign on it just indicates he’s neither smart enough nor of sufficient character in his own right to merit a Senate seat. 

He didn’t stop there. He questioned Vitter’s latest tactic over the “Who Dat?” controversy, which involves printing up T-shirts with the slogan and daring critics to sue him for copyright infringement. “This is the guy who wants tort reform,” Melancon says.

We keep asking the question whether Melancon could really be this stupid, and he keeps upping the ante. The latest iteration of the Who Dat business involves a Metairie company making the asinine claim to hold a copyright to the Who Dat phrase, and Vitter responded to their demands on merchants to honor that copyright claim the same way he responded to the NFL’s attempts to enforce it back in January – namely, printing up t-shirts of his own and daring them to sue him for copyright infringement. Which is a non-governmental, private-sector solution to the problem of lawyered-up, greedy folks trolling for free money. Don’t pick on Mom and Pop, he says, pick on me – I’m a Senator.

Since you’d have to sue a Senator, the theory goes, it’s best not to sue anybody. Which discourages lawsuits. And it’s something you’d do if you want tort reform. So Melancon’s comment shows he’s not too swift.

By the by, anybody remember what Melancon’s buddies at the Louisiana Democrat Party did as a response to the Who Dat controversy in January? Oh, yeah – they threatened to sue.

The congressman pulled up some old quotes from Vitter’s early campaigns as well, in which the senator promised not to be a career politician. “He has been in office for 20 years. When does a career begin and end?” Melancon asked.

Again, it’s not a terrible criticism of Vitter. Vitter, to date, is a career politician. Obviously, he changed his mind about being one once he got into the game. Cincinnatus at the plow, he’s not.

But who is Charlie Melancon to criticize Vitter’s political career? Sure, he only first ran for Congress in 2004. But he also first ran for state representative in 1987, 23 years ago. And after spending a couple of terms in the legislature, he was a lobbyist for the sugar-cane industry and an Edwin Edwards crony before running for Congress.

This man is in his 60’s and he’s still running for office. And he’s going to criticize somebody else for being a career politician? Please.

There’s certainly more from the appearance, and we’ll update this post when a YouTube of it makes its way to the web. But just from the highlights it’s not unreasonable to judge that the more Melancon says, the more obvious it is that he doesn’t have what it takes to either win this race or serve in the Senate.

UPDATE: The Times-Picayune has more from Melancon’s diatribe. Apparently, he also defended his bailout votes…

“Do I regret those (votes)? No I don’t, and history will bear me out,” Melancon told the Baton Rouge Press Club.

Melancon, a Democrat who is the chief challenger to Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, said every major Western democracy joined the United States in fighting the global recession by priming the pump with government spending.

Actually, that’s BS. Obama asked all the other G20 nations to do super-sized stimulus plans, and Britain and Italy were generally the only ones who did. Most of the rest refused. And most of them recovered much more quickly than we have.



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