Letter from the Editor 

It's amazing how often the seemingly conjoined twins — sex and hypocrisy — afflict those in the political arena. This week, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana became the latest victim. Turns out that the "God-fearing" apostle of family values had a little secret: He liked to patronize prostitutes. Often.

His number appeared on the phone bill records posted by "Washington Madam" Deborah Palfrey on her Web site. This revelation brought further reports from New Orleans newspapers of Vitter's dalliances with hookers in that city.

So what was Vitter's reaction? He attacked his "longtime political enemies and those hoping to profit from the situation." He said he wouldn't answer questions, because that "might sell newspapers but wouldn't serve my family or my constituents well." Vitter added that he was quite sure "God had forgiven me."

This is the same guy who in 1998 (when he was busily patronizing hookers in D.C.) argued that President Clinton was "morally unfit to govern."

The question that always comes to my mind when these sorts of things are revealed is: Were these guys lying sleazebags before they were elected, or did they lose their moral compass after they got into office? In other words, does the system (the lobbyists, the need for endless fund-raising, etc.) corrupt, or are we the voters horrible judges of character?

I don't know. But I do know Palfrey's Web site got a lot of traffic this week, as reporters and bloggers from around the country scanned the phone records for numbers in their area code. I even did some scanning myself. The Internet makes the process absurdly easy. You download a few pages of phone records, open your browser to "reverse phone number lookup," and go to town.

I found a few "901" numbers, but they were either cell phones (untraceable) or from corporations, where someone had used an office phone. There were a lot of calls from Utah, that bastion of right-wing morality, but again they were mostly cell phones. On a whim, I decided to call a few of the numbers.

When someone answered, I asked for "John." It seemed fitting. Most of the time, people hung up on me.

There was one Florida number that was on every page of the records, so I called it. An elderly woman answered. I asked if John was there, and she answered, "No, this is the Beulah Palfrey residence."

I guess even madams have moms.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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