The Spectacle Blog

Vitter’s Tirade

By on 3.12.09 | 3:40PM

The report about Sen. David Vitter's temper tantrum at the airport catalyzes me to tell this story again, which I THINK (but am not sure) I have told in short in this space before.

Back in about 1988 I had served as the key "witness" for a Tulane Law School mock trial in a trial-ad (or maybe moot court?) class for which Vitter had been paired with a good friend of mine as defense counsels. We worked well together, had some fun and, no doubt due to my superb acting job as witness (not really -- it was due to Vitter's and my friend's good lawyering), Vitter and my friend earned 'A's. So I was at least somewhat favorably disposed toward David. Then, three years later, a truly bizarre thing happened. I was managing editor of Gambit Weekly in New Orleans by then and Vitter was making his first run for State Rep. We had a feature called "Scuttlebutt" which involved short, hard-news (i.e. not just gossip) snippets of behind-the-scenes political goings on. I wrote a series of scuttlebutts one week about Vitter's race. Any reasonable person would come away from those scuttlebutts thinking Vitter was the candidate most on the ball, far and away. I reported things along the lines of Candidate A having taken the first step by hiring a campaign manager, and candidate B having just leased a campaign office, etc. Vitter, meanwhile, according to my report (this is from memory), had already done something like "blanketed every house in the district with not one but two pieces of glossy campaign literature touting his credentials and platform."

Again, it was just straight reporting, but reporting that by any objective criteria made Vitter look good.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I got a phone call from David where he literally was yelling and occasionally cursing into my ear -- so loudly that I literally had to hold the phone away from my head, about six inches from my ear -- like he was absolutely unhinged. This went on for something like seven or eight minutes straight. Why was he so upset? Because, he said, my use of the word "glossy" -- hey, uh, David, that is a type of paper, dude, as in do you want your photos glossy or matte? -- was a deliberate attempt to insinuate that he was "slick and insubstantial." How DARE I? I was a dirty, rotten, bleeping yellow journalist. Or so he yelled, or words to that effect.

As I said, he sounded unhinged. It was truly, 100 percent bizarre. And this was from a guy for whom, if I had lived in his legislative district, I probably would have voted (before this incident) because his credentials seemed stronger than the other good and worthy candidates in the race. But he was convinced that I was out to get him. Weird. Very very very very weird, and thoroughly unpleasant.

In that light, his tantrum at the airport does not surprise me one bit.

(That Vitter later won his U.S. House seat in a thoroughly dishonorable campaign is yet another story for yet another day.)

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