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David Vitter (and the rest of America), Blessed By Pope Benedict

To see Pope Benedict XVI in person at the White House was the climax of a truly blessed (and just plain lucky) week for Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who dodged the ultimate bullet by not having to testify in the trial of the D.C. Madam.

Vitter and his wife, Wendy, were spotted Wednesday among the thousands of guests who gathered on the south lawn of the White House to sing "Happy Birthday" to the pontiff on his 81st birthday and receive his blessing for America.

For Vitter, a devout Catholic, seeing His Holiness in the flesh was the culmination of one gigantic sigh of relief.

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Republican was spared the threatening embarrassment of having to explain why his telephone number showed up not once, not twice -- but six times -- on the phone records of the so-called D.C. Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, when he was a House member. Palfrey's defense rested its case without calling any witnesses.

Palfrey wasn't as blessed. She was convicted Tuesday of running a prostitution ring, not a "high-end erotic fantasy service" as she had claimed. (Her defense attorney had subpoenaed Vitter to testify in hopes of -- get this -- bolstering Palfrey's claim that her employees only provided sexual fantasy, not actual sex, for money.)

Also spotted in the crowd on the south lawn Wednesday was Rick Santorum, the former GOP senator from Pennsylvania who was defeated by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in 2006.

One informant says although Santorum, who is also Catholic, was "way in the back" where the staffers stood, "he sure was excited."

After losing his Senate seat, Santorum joined the Pittsburgh-based law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott. He works out of the firm's Washington office. (Guess they decided to stay in that house in Leesburg, Va., where the Santorums' cyber-schooling of their five children became a thorny issue in the 2006 campaign.)

By Mary Ann Akers  |  April 16, 2008; 4:30 PM ET
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