So another politician has had to admit to an extra-marital affair. This is it’s Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign. He slipped out of DC Tuesday, and flew home to Vegas to fess up. Although many people might not have heard of this guy, he was considered a rising star in an increasingly barren Republican landscape.
No more. Having to admit an affair with a former campaign staffer who is married to one of your former legislative aides will have that effect.
What’s amazing about Ensign is that he has a long history of righteous indignation about the foibles of others. Back in 1998, then Rep. Ensign was one of the loudest voices calling on Bill Clinton to resign in the wake of the Lewinsky affair. More recently, he played a lead role in trying to force the resignation of then- Senator Larry Craig after he got caught up in that airport bathroom sex sting. At least Ensign showed a willingness to rip folks in both parties.
However, like so many others before him, John Ensign didn’t think the morality he demanded of others applied in any way to his own conduct. It seems politicians have a blind spot whether it’s Ensign or John Edwards, or any number of others. It’s like sex is an entitlement program, to be tapped at will regardless of long term cost. Ensign is a member of the Senate GOP leadership. He’s thought to be one of his party’s leading social conservatives, someone a shattered party could build their hopes on rather than having to rely on Newt Gingrich or Dick Cheney.
Oops! And here’s the interesting part. Ensign himself wasn’t above a little self promotion as a new face on the Republican scene. Just as John Edwards thought no one would find out about his dalliances as he ran for president, Ensign must have believed his December to August romance would never see the light of day.
For an electorate that’s seen so much scandal, sexual and otherwise in recent years, there must be an air of resignation, at least in some quarters. There doesn’t appear to be any way voters can predict whether or when people they elect will violate their trust. In the case of Senator John Ensign, it’s three long years until he’s up for reelection. It goes without saying he’s not going to resign before then. Yet this public fall from grace underscores an unchanging truth, one thast socially conservative politicians would do well to remember.
People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The GOP keeps placing its emphasis on faith and moral values. Then one of their own comes along and messes it all up.