On Tuesday, my state’s junior Senator, John Ensign, held a press conference in which he admitted having an extra-marital affair with former employee Cynthia Hampton. Finding out about the infidelity of a politician is about as surprising as finding out that dogs bark. They are surrounded my money, wield significant amount of power, and are surrounded by obliging sycophants where ever they go. It’s not hard to see how well-meaning men and women living far away from their families fall into the arms of someone else.
What is always surprising, however; is that politicians continue to try and cover up their infidelity once caught. As many times as they’ve seen their colleagues make the same mistake (John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton, Henry Hyde, Rudy Giuliani, Larry Craig, etc.) they fall into the same trap. Instead of learning from those who’ve gone before and coming clean immediately, they inevitably make things worse by lying.
Nevada’s Senator John Ensign is just the latest case in point and has an entirely too cozy relationship with the Hampton family. Here are the details. Ensign had an affair with his employee Cynthia Hampton, the wife of another Ensign employee, Douglas Hampton. But that’s not all. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, headed up by Ensign, also employed Brandon Hampton, the son of Cynthia and Douglas Hampton. Ensign reportedly decided to come forward because “…a former employee had asked Ensign for money in what both sources described as a case of “extortion.” (Fox News)
It’s unclear whether any of this is illegal, but it looks really, really, really bad. And since extortion is a felony, claiming someone is trying to extort you is a concern for law enforcement. However, no law enforcement authorities report any investigations into the so-called extortion. And now Ensign’s staff appear to be walking away from the extortion claim by claiming Douglas Hampton had “approached a television news network about the affair.” (TPM Muckraker)
You have to wonder as Zachary Roth writes:
“Did John Ensign’s camp try to spin the announcement of his affair by smearing his girlfriend’s husband? And is it now trying to walk that back?”
I think we’re about to find out. One this is for certain, if Ensign was hoping for this story to go away quickly, he’s very disappointed.
As a Democrat, I am no fan of Senator Ensign’s policies, but I didn’t rush to demand that he resign because he failed as a husband. However, what would 1998 Ensign react to 2009 Ensign? From ThinkProgress:
“I came to that conclusion recently, and frankly it’s because of what he put his whole Cabinet through and what he has put the country through,” Ensign said Thursday, becoming the first member of the Nevada delegation to call for Clinton to quit. “He has no credibility left.”
Or how about 2007 Ensign when discussing whether Larry Craig should resign?
“I wouldn’t put myself hopefully in that kind of position, but if I was in a position like that, that’s what I would do.” (Fox News)
Ensign is also a strong advocate of the Defense of Marriage Act:
“Marriage recognizes the ideal of a father and mother living together to raise their children. Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded. For those who say that the Constitution is so sacred that we cannot or should not adopt the Federal Marriage Amendment, I would simply point out that marriage, and the sanctity of that institution, predates the American Constitution and the founding of our nation. Marriage, as a social institution, predates every other institution on which ordered society in America has relied.”
Who is going to protect marriage from Ensign and other politicians who cheat and then try to convince us that they know the best way to protect the “cornerstone on which our society was founded?”
We are all human, and we all make mistakes. But people like Ensign hold themselves up as paragons of morality all the time doing exactly what they’re telling the rest of us not to. I think most Americans have had it with the pretend piousness of policians. Keep in mind that Ensign was embroiled in an affair that ended just days before he called for the resignation of Larry Craig. We can hope that Republicans have finally learned their lesson about holding themselves up as the sole guardians of “family values,” but I’m not optimistic.
What was the biblical story about throwing stones?
I don’t really care if Ensign resigns. In fact, I’d rather he be voted out by me and my fellow Nevadans, not for having an affair, but for being dishonest and unethical. What Senator Ensign should be doing is reflecting upon what he’s asked others to do after making their own, painful mistakes.
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