Atwitter Over Vitter

(AP (file))
If you want to understand one of the key differences between the mainstream media and blogs – and make sense of why the latter have grown increasingly popular in recent years – look no further than the David Vitter story.

Vitter, of course, is the Louisiana Republican Senator whose phone number appeared in the records of "DC Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Like Newt Gingrich and other conservative politicians before him, he offered up an apology chock-full of religious language.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," he said in a statement. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."

What's the reason this story has hit such a nerve with some folks? (It's dominating sites like Memorandum.) Vitter is what The New Republic calls a "family-values conservative" – the kind of guy who gets votes by talking about "stand[ing] up for Louisiana values, not Massachusetts's values." TNR notes that Vitter said last year that the gay marriage ban was the most important issue out there, and also flags the New Orleans Times-Picayune's follow up reporting, in which Vitter "conceded that infidelity, divorce, and deadbeat dads contribute to the breakdown of traditional families."

In other words: It's the hypocrisy, stupid.

The blogs are having a field day with that hypocrisy. "This is what makes the revelations interesting," writes the Carpetbagger Report. "Vitter shamelessly got on his high horse, condemning those he deemed morally inferior, despite engaging in the same 'anti-family' behavior he claimed to abhor."

The mainstream media, however, has largely steered clear of focusing on Vitter's past statements, opting instead to play the story relatively straight. The Washington Post, noting only about his rhetoric that Vitter is "reliable conservative vote in the Senate," didn't front the story, opting instead for A3. Rather, it's the blogs and liberal sites like Salon that are jumping on the story and and hammering Vitter for statements at odds with his behavior.

If you want a straight news story, then, you can stick with the traditional media. But if you want a spotlight placed on Vitter's hypocrisy – and the rush of satisfaction that comes with experiencing schadenfreude that you can justify – you can head over to the blogs. Is it any wonder that the latter get so many clicks?