He’s an opinion writer rather than a reporter, and at times he’s capable of solid artistry with a poison pen. But today the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s James Gill uncorked a major dud when he attempted to use the recent disclosure of Sen. Bob Menendez’ illicit behavior to have another go at his colleague David Vitter’s trouble along similar lines.
As the product of a well-informed member of the journalistic elite, Gill’s piece is wanting on several levels.
First, Gill describes Vitter as “rabidly right-wing,” while Menendez is styled a “Democrat.”
Gill is a liberal whose animus toward Vitter never ceases. But why would he paint Vitter with an extreme label while just applying a party label to Menendez?
The American Conservative Union, the organization which puts on the annual CPAC conference in Washington, gives Vitter a lifetime rating of 94.38 (as of 2011; ACU hasn’t released its scores for 2012 yet) and Menendez an 8.05. That would make Menendez a couple of points more left-wing than Vitter is right-wing. Is that couple of points the difference between “rabidly right-wing” and “Democrat?”
Another organization which puts out a congressional scorecard is the Club For Growth. Vitter’s lifetime score there is 85 percent. Menendez? Try four percent. That would serve to make Menendez “rabidly left-wing,” would it not?
Unless Gill thinks the difference between the two is that Menendez has had his shots and Vitter has not, his column opens with an immediate signal of unbalance.
It goes downhill from there.
Gill then shows geographical incompetence by alleging that Menendez’ hooker problem originated not in the Dominican Republic but rather Dominica.
A news flash for the local journalistic elite wishing to opine about the Menendez scandal – Dominica and the Dominican Republic are not interchangeable.
Here’s the Dominican Republic on a map…
…and here’s Dominica on a map…
They’re both countries in the Caribbean, right? As Hillary Clinton might say, “What difference does it make?”
Gill makes this error not once, but twice. Which of course, says rather uncomplimentary things about the T-P editorial staff who couldn’t catch and fix Gill’s mistakes.
After that goof, he presses on.
Back in December senatorial peccadilloes were not a hot issue anyway, and the allegations against Menendez had attracted little attention outside New Jersey. They were published on a conservative website, the Daily Caller, which said a couple of Dominican prostitutes had identified Menendez as a customer. The Daily Caller followed up, quoting an unnamed “high-level government official” in Dominica who alleged Menendez had attended parties involving “hookers and drinking” there for three years.
New Jersey voters were evidently unperturbed, and rightly so. Even if the allegations were true, Menendez would have broken no laws, the Dominican Republic being less uptight than Washington on sexual mores. Menendez is divorced, and if a senator does have a weakness for Dominican tarts, that’s his business.
Vitter transgressed on American soil, but resorting to call girls when far from home is way short of a hanging offense, even for a sanctimonious poseur. Vitter sure has some chutzpah, though; when he ran for re-election in 2010, three years after his fall from grace, he was still touting “family” as his “greatest strength” and won hands down. He has, however, been less inclined to hog the political limelight than he was before his secret was discovered.
Gill might want to do a little more research into that upon which he opines – for if he had he would know that Menendez isn’t just accused of consorting with Dominican “hookers,” which is of course not onerous at all compared to Vitter’s deadly sin of hypocrisy leftist writers thrive on in having had similar dalliances, but that those prostitutes were underage. In fact, the Daily Caller reports on the subject say that Menendez liked his escorts as young as 14 years old.
Even in sexually-permissive Santo Domingo, 14-year old hookers are jail bait. Such a sensational, salacious detail might be grist for an opinion column that might sell enough papers to keep the Sometimes-Picayune on a more regular publication schedule. But when there’s an agenda to sell rather than fishwraps, it gets left on the cutting-room floor.
So far as we can tell, it’s illegal for a grown man to engage in coitus with 14-year old hookers on Dominica, too.
Gill then says that Menendez’ troubles – which by the way don’t just include Dominican kinder but also the allegation that he intervened to pressure the government in the Dominican Republic to give his friend Salomon Melgen a port security contract worth a half-billion dollars despite the latter’s having no experience in that field; Melgen is the “friend” on whose plane Menendez flew to engage in his statutory rape escapades – are bad for Vitter because the more Menendez’ name is in the news the more Vitter’s problems with prostitutes will be remembered.
Remembered – by whom? Gill? Gill hasn’t forgotten Vitter’s mistakes, ever. Nor will he let anyone else forget. Why should Vitter rue Menendez’ transgressions?
Such idiocy is grist for loudmouthed drunks at the end of a dive bar, not the columns of the journalistic elite.