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Vitter Outed in D.C. Madam Scandal

David Vitter, a conservative from Louisiana, was the first Member of Congress outed by the infamous “D.C. Madam.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) apologized last night after his telephone number appeared in the phone records of the woman dubbed the “D.C. Madam,” making him the first member of Congress to become ensnared in the high-profile case. The statement containing Vitter’s apology said his telephone number was included on phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates dating from before he ran for the Senate in 2004.

[...]

Palfrey, 51, titillated national media this spring by threatening to auction her list of clients’ phone numbers to the highest bidder. She said she needed the money to pay legal expenses, but in May U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered Palfrey to keep the records to herself.

That move came after Palfrey and Sibley had turned over a sizable portion of the 10,000 phone records to ABC News. One client contacted by ABC reporters was Randall L. Tobias, a deputy secretary of state, who said he used Palfrey’s escort service for massages, not for sex. A day later, on April 27, Tobias resigned from the State Department, reigniting the media firestorm over Palfrey’s records. That was seemingly snuffed out by Kessler’s temporary restraining order two weeks later, but Kessler vacated her order on Thursday, clearing the way for Palfrey to post the records online.

Frankly, I don’t care how much praying they’ve done or how much they’ve turned away from sin or gives to their church. Nor, really, is hypocrisy here that big an issue. The real question, it seems to me, is why any of this is illegal.

Palfrey claims there are “up to 15,000 names” on the list. Many of them, given the nature and location of the business in question, are public figures of some magnitude and most of them people who will be embarrassed by the revelations. The only reason the names are coming out is because a criminal investigation has shut down the enterprise and left Palfrey and others with large legal bills.

For what, exactly?

We’re not talking here about impoverished runaways being forced into a crude life walking the streets and selling their bodies by cruel fate. Nobody’s pimp is beating them up. These are college educated women making an informed choice about how to make a living. Given the prices that have been bandied about, their clients aren’t victims, either. And, considering how long the business was in operation, they apparently weren’t even creating a nuisance in the neighborhood.

Surely, there are more substantial problems in the District of Columbia than well-off people deciding to exchange money for sex?

UPDATE: RealClear Politics is sponsoring a debate under the clever title, DID SENATOR VITTER GET SCREWED?

This post is featured along with:

  • Balloon Juice: “I think in general that it’s silly to criminalize prostitution, but as long as legislators see fit to ban it for the rest of us they have a certain responsibility to respect the ban themselves.”
  • DownWithTyranny: “The man is a putrid hypocrite and a typically divisive Republican phony-baloney.”
  • TBogg: “Making the two-backed sanctimonious Republican is kind of a tradition in the First District.”

UPDATE: Stacy McCain, who has an excellent roundup of reactions to this story, wonders if these college educated women “reported their careers in the alumni newsletter?”

I’m guessing not. While my stance on how the state should treat these matters is libertarian, my social reaction is decidedly conservative. As Chris Rock observed, if your daughter grows up to be a stripper, you’ve pretty much failed as a father.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Grewgills says:

    I agree that this was largely a victimless crime and probably should not be a crime at all. Rather it should be well regulated to prevent as much victimization as is possible.

    This being said, I can’t help but feel a bit of schadenfreude at this holier than thou politician whose favorite tactic was to impugn the morals of others was outed for visiting prostitutes.

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  2. Billy says:

    This being said, I can’t help but feel a bit of schadenfreude at this holier than thou politician whose favorite tactic was to impugn the morals of others was outed for visiting prostitutes.

    Shadenfeude aside, this is the issue.

    I don’t know how you can say that “hypocracy [isn't] that big an issue.” It is exactly that big an issue. The guy ran on a platform that included “moral values;” if he is to be held accountable for his actions, they must be judged by the standards he has set out for the rest of us.

    Frankly, more than anything I pity the poor bastard (see the 7th paragraph from the top within the link).

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  3. legion says:

    Not to mention the way he celebrated the defeat of any sort of gay marraige legislation, trumpeting about how it undermines ‘real’ marraiges, like his. Y’see, it’s the gays, not the hookers…

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  4. Andy says:

    Look it, if it weren’t for all of the gays partying at Mardi Gras, surely Vitter would not have been tempted by this demon seductress. One quick question: As Giuiani’s regional chair, was he cross dressing during the BDSM play?

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  5. [...] James Joyner raises the following question: The real question, it seems to me, is why any of this is illegal. [...]

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  6. Jon Swift says:

    David Vitter: Another Victim of Gay Marriage…

    I hope that Congress revives the Federal Marriage Amendment and renames it the David Vitter Marriage Amendment, in honor of one man who tragically exemplifies the havoc that gay marriage is wreaking in our society….

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  7. [...] too, for reasons explained in his post), John Hawkins, Ann Althouse, Dan Riehl, JammieWearingFool, James Joyner Posted By: Sister Toldjah in: Scandals, Congress | EMail This Post | Print This Post | [...]

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  8. Sen. Vitter on DC Madam list…

    Well, one down…how many more to go?
    Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) apologized last night after his telephone number appeared in the phone records of the woman dubbed the "D.C. Madam," making him the first member of Congress to become ensnared in…

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  9. Bithead says:

    Of course hypocrisy is the issue. As I said at my own place this morning:

    Vitter, for his part, could have pulled a Bill Clinton, and claim he “never had sex with that woman”, and pull all kinds of legal stunts to the end of confounding his critics as Bill Clinton did. He didn’t. I suppose that to be a massive difference in the character of the two individuals.

    But the difference in character, here, is also exposed, insofar as the character of the people labeling this a scandal. It’s no small thing, that the ones generating the most heat on this, are the same ones who defended Bill Clinton. That particular point is not brought up in defense of Vitter, but rather to show in stark relief, the remarkable double standard being applied by the left in this matter.

    Make no mistake about the opportunism that’s going on here.

    But, I think I ought to point out, that now that we have the list in front of us, there is no way for us to determine who was who used the service legally, and who use the service to engage in prostitution. That would seem to include David Vitter.

    And by the way, I note that with just the one public name out, the server that contains the records is down. It’s showing 503 errors for FTP attempts.

    I wonder; is this a case of protecting the democrats on that list, now that the pound of Republican flesh has been offered up?

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  10. Jan says:

    Yeah, I really don’t understand the complete pass on hypocrisy you’ve given this story!

    I’m a woman and I’m okay with prostitution, and, btw, also okay with my daughter being a stripper, as long as it made her happy and she didn’t kill anyone. (I only have sons but…)

    The problem with this story for the GOP, like Mark Foley, is that no one except the GOP has ever made a big deal about the sin. The GOP was actually willing to IMPEACH a twice-elected POTUS over this kind of petty stuff!!!

    So, it has nothing to do with the sin.
    It has EVERYTHING to do with the blatant hypocrisy.
    Republicans harp on these sins, as Vitter did, constantly. The finger is always pointed outward, at the rest of us sleezy sinners.

    When you claim you are the knight in shining armor to defend marriage, when you tell Bill Clinton publicly that he should resign the Presidency over an affair, and on and on…
    Well, it makes people gag when you treat your own words and even your own marriage as a policial prop.

    And it doesn’t help that his wife publicly promised to cut off Vitter’s penis rather than stand by her man as Hillary Clinton did.

    We’re all waiting to see if THAT was a promise.

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  11. Billy says:

    That particular point is not brought up in defense of Vitter, but rather to show in stark relief, the remarkable double standard being applied by the left in this matter.

    Once again, you’ve missed the point in so many ways it’s hard to know where to begin. Here’s a start:

    1. Not everyone who points out hypocracy in Republicans defended the exact same behavior Bill Clinton.
    2. Bill Clinton’s behavior was indefensible, but it is also distinguishable; he never ran on a platform of “protecting marriage.”
    3. Bill Clinton’s behavior does not excuse ongoing hypocracy from his political opposition.

    Would it kill you to admit that your party has done wrong, even once and a while? The old line of “yeah, well, BILL CLINTON” is not only completely tired, but laughably ineffective in making your point.

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  12. Bithead says:

    Oh, I think I’ve nailed the point quite well. Or are you going to tell us there’s no double standard applied, here?

    1. Not everyone who points out hypocracy in Republicans defended the exact same behavior Bill Clinton.
    2. Bill Clinton’s behavior was indefensible, but it is also distinguishable; he never ran on a platform of “protecting marriage.”
    3. Bill Clinton’s behavior does not excuse ongoing hypocracy from his political opposition.

    One. Show me a Democrat who wanted Bill CLinton removed form office for lying under oath.
    Two. that a representative of an idea is less than perfect, makes the idea less true?
    Thirdly: At what point if I made any excuses for the behavior?

    (Chuckle) No more did he. Unlike Mr. Clinton, Vitter had the courage to ‘fess up that his number was among those on that list. This despite the fact, that his number being on that list, does nothing to prove that he engaged in an illegal act; IE: Prostitution. as I said, he could have played all kinds of legal opportunities. And why not after the long line of Democrats who have done exactly this, and been unwaveringly supported by their party in the doing.

    The difference is, Vitter had the courage to fess up.

    understanding clearly, I’m not using Bill Clinton as a whipping boy. What I’m suggesting is that situation is illustrative in the extreme, of the double standards being applied, here. Wouldn’t kill you do admit that? Even once? Tell me again, how democrats don’t walk in lockstep. Or is that goosestep? I forget.

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  13. Andy says:

    Bithead: Proving that Republicans still don’t understand the difference between sex and illegal prostitution.

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  14. Bithead says:

    At what point did I say anything about sex, Andy?
    I specifically made reference to lying under oath. Or, alternately, if it’s not OK to lie under oath, and shall we know remove all penalty from Scoter Libby?

    Which, come to think of it, is another double standard. But that’s another thread.

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  15. Billy says:

    What I’m suggesting is that situation is illustrative in the extreme, of the double standards being applied, here.

    Agreed. But the double standard is illustrated by politicians who call for impeachment over lying about extra-marital sex (even if on the stand) and tout their own “moral values” bona fides, and who turn around and visit prostitutes (extra-maritally).

    When someone who defended Clinton for lying under oath calls for the forceable removal of Vitter from office, you might have a case.

    But only for that individual.

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  16. floyd says:

    “Rather it should be well regulated”

    ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;
    Like every other detail of our lives!Either legalize it or don’t.
    REGULATION has proven, repeatedly, to be the most effective and insidious form of TYRANNY!
    Just as with gambling,giving the government a “piece” of the action, corrupts government, and only exacerbates any clarity in social morality.

    It is an indisputable fact that legalizing a behavior adds credibility to it,encourages it, and squelches any resistance to it’s flourishing! The government is despicable enough, without making all of us the subjects of pimps!

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  17. Bithead says:

    Agreed. But the double standard is illustrated by politicians who call for impeachment over lying about extra-marital sex (even if on the stand) and tout their own “moral values” bona fides, and who turn around and visit prostitutes (extra-maritally).

    Let’s be honest about this; your objection is not the extramarital sex, your objection is that someone is touting moral values.

    I ask again; because there are less than perfect representatives of an idea, does the idea itself somehow lose merit? I don’t think so.

    As for the removal of Vitter from office, on what legal basis do you propose doing that?

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  18. Grewgills says:

    Like every other detail of our lives!Either legalize it or don’t. REGULATION has proven, repeatedly, to be the most effective and insidious form of TYRANNY!

    So alcohol and tobacco should be legal to all. Six year olds should be allowed to walk into the store, buy a 40 and a pack of camels to spice up their afternoon at the playground. All food and drugs should be either illegal or entirely unregulated. Great ideas. How about guns and explosives should they be illegal or entirely unregulated? What about driving?

    It is an indisputable fact that legalizing a behavior adds credibility to it,encourages it, and squelches any resistance to it’s flourishing!

    Do you have any evidence to support this other than your strong opinion?
    I’m currently living somewhere that prostitution and soft drugs (marijuana, hash and mushrooms) are legal and all are less commonly used by the locals than they are in most places I’ve lived in the US.

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  19. legion says:

    One. Show me a Democrat who wanted Bill CLinton removed form office for lying under oath.

    Ten yard penalty for false dichotomy. Lots of Democrats (myself included) were appalled by Clinton’s actions & wanted him punished – but not necessarily removed from office.

    Two. that a representative of an idea is less than perfect, makes the idea less true?

    Five more yards for dodging the point. It doesn’t make the idea less true; it makes the individual judging others for failing to accept a standard that he himself is woefully unable to live up to a hypocrite.

    This despite the fact, that his number being on that list, does nothing to prove that he engaged in an illegal act; IE: Prostitution.

    Certainly his phone # isn’t enough to convict in a court of law, but considering that Vitter himself described his listing as evidence of “a very serious sin” and something for which he “asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling”, it seems pretty self-evident that he was engaged in some sort of unseemly conduct…

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  20. Billy says:

    Let’s be honest about this; your objection is not the extramarital sex, your objection is that someone is touting moral values.

    Though I don’t think extramarital affairs are evidence of an admirable character, I really don’t have a problem with either. One’s private life is just that, and I don’t make a practice of judging other people for their personal shortcomings. As for moral values, I think they’re great and we could use more of them.

    However, I strongly object to someone who takes every opportunity to lecture others on that which constitutes the “correct” moral value system while simultaneously flouting the very rules by which he demands the rest of society abide.

    As for the removal of Vitter from office, on what legal basis do you propose doing that?

    I mentioned this to illustrate how inapt your analogy really is, but to give you an answer, I would leave that to the voters of Louisiana, who have plenty of legal basis to do as they wish.

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  21. [...] is unfortunate that liberals, who like to pry into people’s personal lives, felt it necessary to divulge information about Vitter’s sexual transgressions when God [...]

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  22. Bithead says:

    Ten yard penalty for false dichotomy. Lots of Democrats (myself included) were appalled by Clinton’s actions & wanted him punished – but not necessarily removed from office.

    So, why then the calls for removal of Vitter from office? I’d say the dichotomy isn’t quite so false as you lay out to be.

    Certainly his phone # isn’t enough to convict in a court of law, but considering that Vitter himself described his listing as evidence of “a very serious sin” and something for which he “asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling”, it seems pretty self-evident that he was engaged in some sort of unseemly conduct…

    correct. Which, in turn furthers my point as regards the relative qualities of each man. Clinton though his misdeed was proven seven ways to sunday, lied and twisted his way out of it, and the cost of taxpayer millions. Vitter simply admitted it and moved on.

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  23. Billy says:

    So, why then the calls for removal of Vitter from office?

    Who did this? Seriously – if someone is actually calling for Vitter to be removed from office, I’d love some proof.

    Clinton though his misdeed was proven seven ways to sunday, lied and twisted his way out of it, and the cost of taxpayer millions. Vitter simply admitted it and moved on.

    Vitter was caught, and saw the writing on the wall. He’d love to simply move on; fortunately, our criminal justice system is seldom so forgiving. Once again, and I know I’ll be saying this for many years to come, what Clinton did is irrelevant.

    The fact that admitting what is obvious to the world is a virtue in your book speaks volumes about the relative righteousness of the Republican Party.

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  24. Bithead says:

    Who did this? Seriously – if someone is actually calling for Vitter to be removed from office, I’d love some proof.

    You mean…

    When someone who defended Clinton for lying under oath calls for the forceable removal of Vitter from office, you might have a case.

    … isn’t a statement of desire?

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  25. Bithead says:

    Vitter was caught, and saw the writing on the wall.

    So was Clinton.

    Next?

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  26. Richard Gardner says:

    As is typical in similar cases, we now have others suddenly jumping in to claim the supposed malfeasance was not unique. Now a Madam in Vitter’s home state of Louisiana is claiming him as a client. But she says it was before the FBI starting surveillance on her business, which apparently the latest scurrilous New Orleans scandal. I’m just wondering why the FBI is keeping track of New Orleans brothels? Are there no higher crimes, like terrorism? And what is the Federal issue for the FBI to get involved (cough, cough, the interstate commerce clause?)?

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  27. Grewgills says:

    Who did this? Seriously – if someone is actually calling for Vitter to be removed from office, I’d love some proof.

    You mean…

    When someone who defended Clinton for lying under oath calls for the forceable removal of Vitter from office, you might have a case.

    … isn’t a statement of desire?

    No it is not. Try again.

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  28. Billy says:

    Once again, and I know I’ll be saying this for many years to come, what Clinton did is irrelevant.

    So was Clinton.

    Totally awesome.

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  29. Bithead says:

    I’m quite serious. Think about it; what was he trying to do, ad what has he been doing since, except convinces that the crimes he committed were irrelevant, and thus save his legacy?

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  30. Bithead says:

    No it is not. Try again.

    No sale.

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  31. Billy says:

    This is the point. From the New York Times:

    From the beginning of his political career 16 years ago, Senator David Vitter has been known for efforts to plant himself on the moral high ground, challenging the ethics of other Louisiana politicians, decrying same-sex marriage and depicting himself as a clean-as-a-whistle champion of family values.

    . . .

    Through it all, Mr. Vitter’s consistent themes have been family values, morality and ethics — his own, in contrast to what he has depicted as deficiencies in the local political culture. In Louisiana, where the well-documented infidelities of the onetime governor Edwin W. Edwards were all but a political asset, Mr. Vitter could easily survive any disclosure about adultery. Insincerity, however, is another matter.

    It’s all about how the man cast himself as a paragon of moral virtue, and disparaged those around him as not living up to those standards. Those who live in glass houses…

    No it is not. Try again.

    No sale.

    Do you actually read the comments you respond to? The quote you plucked about calling for Vitter’s removal was written exactly because no one has actually done that. Just because you seek to find a call for his removal by imparting your ideas onto the words of others does not make it so, and allow me to assure you that you’re no psychic when it comes to what I think.

    In any case, the constant obsession with what Clinton did is not only pathetic, but in this case it is patently inapposite.

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  32. Bithead says:

    Look, you keep missing this, so I suppose I’m going to have to lay it out for you. Do people who don’t speak about moral issues and the sanctity of marriage get a pass when they get involved in the kind of behavior under discussion? I mean because they are running around talking about family values and morality there freed to do whatever the hell they want to do?

    Just because he did whatever it is seeded as far as I’m concerned at least doesn’t disqualify him from speaking on things that are right or wrong.

    Do you actually read the comments you respond to? The quote you plucked about calling for Vitter’s removal was written exactly because no one has actually done that.

    Beg your pardon. I was just making sure that’s what you intended to say. Now that we’re nice and snug in the box, I’ll close the lid for you.

    Does Democratic Underground count as a source for such? Does MyDD count?

    You were saying?

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  33. Billy says:

    You were saying?

    I was indeed:

    When someone who defended Clinton for lying under oath calls for the forceable removal of Vitter from office, you might have a case.

    A petition for voluntary resignation doesn’t exactly foot the bill, does it?

    Now, answer me this question: does the presence of some hypocrites who espouse a certain political viewpoint affect the validity of that viewpoint? I just want to make sure I’m reading you right.

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  34. Bithead says:

    No, it does not.

    Also I am amused at your claim that running a petition for the removal of someone from office, doesn’t constitute advocating a forcible removal.

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  35. Bithead says:

    As is typical in similar cases, we now have others suddenly jumping in to claim the supposed malfeasance was not unique. Now a Madam in Vitter’s home state of Louisiana is claiming him as a client. But she says it was before the FBI starting surveillance on her business, which apparently the latest scurrilous New Orleans scandal. I’m just wondering why the FBI is keeping track of New Orleans brothels? Are there no higher crimes, like terrorism? And what is the Federal issue for the FBI to get involved (cough, cough, the interstate commerce clause?)?

    Apparently, the FBI is now working for Larry Flynt. Are we as a people, really ready to allow the likes of Larry Flynt to dictate to us who it is that is moral enough to be in office?

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  36. Billy says:

    Well, it really doesn’t. Forcing someone out of office would be, say, an impeachment, or a recall. A petition to convince someone of the wisdom of resignation would be just that – convincing him out of office.

    To answer your previous questions, people who don’t speak on moral issues do NOT get a pass when it comes to things like breaking the law, or lying. However, if it were to come to light that someone who doesn’t make a point of discussing how government should legislate morality leads, for instance, a non-traditional sex life, it really isn’t an issue.

    On the other hand, when you have someone who makes his career holding himself out to be a paragon of virtue and carrying the “traditional values” torch who engages in the very behavior that he proposes to punish other people for, you have a very different issue. At such a point, whatever gravitas the hypocrite had when pontificating about moral issues is forfeit.

    That’s the important point about Vitter. Whatever else he does, if he so much as opens his mouth about moral values at this point, someone needs to at least point out how full of &$#! he really is. Not only that, but it casts very serious doubt as to his sincerity in other issues. He can, of course, say whatever he wants, but people should know better than to listen.

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  37. G.A.Phillips says:

    Lets try it this way Bit,

    and its about whoever.

    Someone who has fallen but knows the truth and ask for forgiveness, is much different then someone who lives fallen doesn’t believe in the truth and pleads innocent when caught red handed and then blames every thing on someone else instead of asking for forgiveness.

    And That’s the important point about the later and any who defend any one or themselves with these types of character traits. Whatever else he or she does, if he or she so much as opens his mouth about moral values at this point, someone needs to at least point out how full of &$#! he or her really is. Not only that, but it casts very serious doubt as to his or her sincerity in other issues. He or she can, of course, say whatever he wants, but people should know better than to listen.

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  38. Billy says:

    G.A.:

    Once again, and I know I’ll be saying this for many years to come, what Clinton did is irrelevant.

    In any case, the constant obsession with what Clinton did is not only pathetic, but in this case it is patently inapposite.

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  39. G.A.Phillips says:

    Billy,
    Who said anything about Clinton?

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