Will Straying Politicians Ever Learn? John Ensign says…Nope!

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.

Darlene and John Ensign
Darlene and John Ensign

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.

Can someone please explain this to me?


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Politicians are in many ways like rock stars. Unless they can finance their own campaigns, they need to love performing before audiences just to raise the money needed to be elected. They definitely attract their own groupies. (Compare the mind-set of volunteers at the local soup kitchen with campaign & back-office political volunteers.) The combination of love of adulation and the more-than-willing-to-adore volunteers makes me suspect that the number of completely faithful politicians is very, very small. (I worked for years for one so I do think that they exist.)
    So why the hounding of the exposed? I think two reasons – one, its part of the performance. To not be sufficiently enraged by the infidelity passes up a chance to get in front of the politician’s audience.
    Second, I think it’s a punishment of ‘stupidity.’ If a politician can convince himself the only reason someone is exposed is because they were stupid (Craig in a public bathroom; Spitzer paying through a means he knew was monitored) they can grandstand on the evils of the exposed politician without relating it to their own transgressions.

  2. sanda says:

    Politician is another word for HUBRIS. Or chutzpah.

  3. sanda says:

    please please, Mr. Riley, can I have a different picture? Got any woman faces?

    1. Sanda…are you talking about my face? I don’t have a ‘woman face’ of me?

  4. sanda says:

    Dan Froomkin’s been fired by the WaPo. (source: Glenn Greenwald’s column on
    http://www.salon.com) I think I heard of Froomkin from your former radio show, so that’s why
    I am putting the news here.

  5. p of v says:

    I think sanda was talking about her avatar.
    As to Ensign, well, he’s a republican. They have a different set of family values than most Americans.

  6. Karl Greene says:

    These guys get caught because they’re in the glare of the headlights. Someone’s always watching. Most men have done the same thing, to one degree or another but, most men are nobodies. There’s nothing newsworthy about Joe Sixpack bedding down with another nobody. These men in public office aren’t so much guilty of immoral behavior as they are of stupidity.

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