I had just taken the burgers off the grill and my family was sitting down to dinner last night when the phone rang. I told my wife that unless it was an emergency, tell whoever it was that we’d call them back. She answered the phone and told me, “It’s David Vitter.”
It was one of U.S. Sen. Vitter’s “telephone town hall conferences.” Since 2006, Vitter’s regularly held these phone question-and-answer sessions with voters. “He also tries to focus the call around a particular subject, but will answer questions that someone may have on other topics as he would in his formal town hall meetings,” Vitter's communications director Joel DiGrado recently told the Bossier Press-Tribune .
I figured my burger could wait and I’d see if I could participate in this telephone town hall conference focusing on immigration issues. The way it works is you press the number zero on your phone if you want to ask a question, and you’re placed in a waiting line. About 20 minutes went by as I listened to Vitter field questions from other callers, and then a woman got on the line with me. She asked if I had a question for Sen. Vitter. Yes, I did, I replied. She asked what it was about, and I told her H2B workers.
Another 15 minutes or so went by when an automated message told me I was next in line to speak. As Vitter finished answering a question, he said, “Now we go to the Jordan household in Carencro.”
I asked him if he supported the legislation that Congressman Charles Boustany is working on to raise the cap on temporary H2B workers to help local businesses like seafood processors who are experiencing a labor shortage. Vitter noted that he is in favor of using legal H2B workers, and pointed out that Boustany isn’t trying to raise the cap, but working to restore H2B numbers to last year’s levels.
Then I asked a second question.
“New York Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer just resigned today after it was revealed that he had an affair with a prostitute,” I said. “I also just read an editorial in the Ouchita Citizen today that noted if Spitzer resigns, you should resign also over your past transgression. How do you respond to people who say that there’s a double standard at work here?”
(Somewhere toward the end of asking the question, an automated message informed me that I was now in “listen-only mode.”)
“I made a very serious mistake a long time ago, and I have to live with that every day,” Vitter replied. He sounded genuine and contrite. “That’s not a flippant statement. I need to spend my whole life making up for that.”
Then his tone turned a bit defiant. “Anybody who looks at the two cases will see that there is an enormous difference between the two of them,” he said. “The people that are trying to draw comparisons to the two cases are people who’ve never agreed with me on important issues like immigration and other things.”
He then moved on to the next caller.
I commend Sen. Vitter for holding these telephone town hall meetings and answering questions from voters.