Rep. Vance McAllister (R) of Louisiana, the “kissing congressman” caught on video snuggling with a staffer, is now facing enormous pressure from his own party to resign right now.
As in, immediately if not sooner. Don’t pass Go. Don’t collect another congressional pay stub. Don’t wait for November to see if voters will forgive his smooching someone not his wife.
Consider this tough statement issued Thursday by GOP Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: “Congressman McAllister’s behavior is an embarrassment, and he should resign. He says he wants privacy to work on his issues with his family. The best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.”
And this one from the Louisiana state Republican Party: “Mr. McAllister’s extreme hypocrisy is an example of why ordinary people are fed up with politics. A breach of trust of this magnitude can only be rectified by an immediate resignation. He has embarrassed our party, our state and the institution of Congress.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio said pointedly that McAllister “has a decision to make.”
“I expect all members to be held to the highest ethical standards, and this is no different,” Boehner said at his weekly news conference.
This is rough stuff. You’d expect Democrats to be calling for the resignation of a Republican caught in scandal, and vice versa. But when your own party wants you gone, is it possible to survive in office?
Technically, yes. They can’t force McAllister to put pen to paper and quit. But from a practical standpoint McAllister, seems a soon-to-be-ex-congressman walking. At this point it would be almost unprecedented for him to stay in office and run for reelection in the fall.
“There is no powering through this episode, no matter what the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame has to say on the matter. To fight on would result in McAllister becoming a politically radioactive pariah within his caucus and almost certain defeat in the November general election,” writes Mike Bayham on the right-leaning Louisiana political blog “The Hayride.”
Yes, yes, perhaps the Louisiana state Republican Party is being a bit selective in its outrage here. Seven years ago, when Sen. David Vitter (R) of Louisiana showed up on the call logs of a D.C. prostitution ring, the state party didn’t ask him to quit. Then-Congressman Jindal did not either. Left-leaning groups are trying to score a few points by dredging up this old incident and attempting to connect it to the McAllister affair.
But if you want consistency, make pudding. Politics is a matter of gauging opportunity and cost every day, and at this point McAllister is a much bigger drag on the GOP than Vitter was.
First, there’s video. One word: “YouTube.”
Second, McAllister would have to face voters in a few months. Senator Vitter had years to put the matter behind him before running for reelection.
Third, Vitter was much better at crisis management. He admitted to missteps, called party elders in contrition, and then went silent on the matter. McAllister has hinted that he’ll call in the FBI to investigate who leaked the tape. And he hasn't reached out to party officials to tell them what he’s going to do.
The bottom line is that Vitter was a state insider and McAllister is not. McAllister was an upset winner who defeated an official establishment candidate in a so-called “jungle” run-off primary. If he sticks it out and tries to win reelection he’ll get national media attention that would tarnish the GOP brand at a time when the party seems poised to keep the House and even win Senate control.
For the Republican Party, the stakes in the “kissing congressman” matter thus seem high. If he runs he’ll get no money or support from the GOP. (Of course, he won without the first time.) If he somehow gets reelected he may sit in his office wondering why that office is in the basement and has no window, and why his committee assignments are so bad, and whether the Republican whip will ever return his phone calls.