Opinion: David Vitter must go

by Leslie Turk

U.S. Sen. David Vitter ought not qualify for re-election this week. Instead, after serving out his term, he should slink away in shame.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter ought not qualify for re-election this week. Instead, after serving out his term, he should slink away in shame.

Far too little attention has been paid to new revelations that the senator retained a legislative aide even after learning the aide attacked a girlfriend with a knife and held her against her will for 90 minutes. It turns out the aide has a record of brushes with the law dating back to the 1990s, a record the senator should easily have discovered once he was apprised of the knifing incident in 2008. Yet Vitter not only kept the aide on his staff, but also assigned this abuser of women to handle women's issues.

Even for somebody with Vitter's dodgy record, this abrogation of judgment defies belief. To understand the frightening nature of aide Brent Furer's attack on girlfriend Nicolia Demopoulos, consider these lines from the June 23 report by ABC News in breaking the story:

The two returned to Furer's Capitol Hill apartment, the report says. Furer "would not let her leave." He "pulled on her coat, which caused it to rip," then "pulled out a knife and stabbed [her] in the hand." ... He smashed her phone when she tried to call 911, the records say, and he shoved her to the floor when she tried to leave, then held his hand over her mouth and threw her on a bed. ... Furer "grabbed an unknown object and held it under her neck. The suspect asked the complainant, Do you want to die?' ... After a 90-minute standoff, Furer made her promise not to call police, and then allowed her to leave. She fled to a friend's house, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. A slash on her chin took eight stitches to close, the police report says.

Furer already had an arrest record - three DUIs and a cocaine possession arrest. Another time, during a road-rage incident, he hit a motorcyclist with his SUV, breaking the man's leg. Still, Vitter kept him on staff.

Vitter thus far has survived his infamous ties to the "D.C. Madam," along with credible accusations of earlier assignations with at least one other call girl. Supporters apparently forgave his moral lapse - and overlooked the fact that paying prostitutes is a crime. Nobody should be in the Senate drafting laws if he is unwilling to abide by them.

In another incident, just last year, Vitter showed his true colors at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., reportedly yelling at an airport worker when told he was late for a plane, pushing open the security door, and (according to one report) "invok[ing] his standing as a senator, delivering a do-you-know-who-I-am' tirade."

Vitter's explosive temper is legendary. His former legislative colleagues long ago dubbed him "Bitter Vitter." He once lost a lawsuit arising out of a 1993 town hall meeting in which a local Republican activist said Vitter became enraged at her question, pushed aside chairs to confront her, and seized her tape recorder.

For the GOP, the stakes are high. Vitter is an unstable element waiting to go fissile, an embarrassment to his state and his party. Republicans would be in a bind if he attracts no significant primary opponent and then implodes. By rights, he should not run - or GOP leaders should pressure him to defer to another candidate. Otherwise, when Democrats highlight the dangerously abusive aide and Vitter's other serious character flaws, Louisiana's sole Republican Senate seat will be as imperiled as a throat held at knifepoint.

[Editor's Note: New Orleans native Quin Hillyer, a former state chair of the Louisiana Young Republicans, is an award-winning opinion writer for The Washington Times and The American Spectator. This column was reprinted with permission from Gambit, where Hillyer once worked as managing editor.]