Does John Ensign Think David Vitter Should Resign?

Y'all remember John Ensign, right?  He's the Republican U.S. Senator from Nevada who recently announced that he cheated on his wife with an aide.  But he's not resigning - despite the fact that he called on President Clinton to resign for his marital infidelity.  Why the different standard?

Nevada U.S. Sen. John Ensign told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his affair with a friend's wife was different from former President Bill Clinton's affair in the White House because Clinton committed a felony when he lied about it to a grand jury.

"I haven't done anything legally wrong," the Nevada Republican said.

"President Clinton stood right before the American people and he lied to the American people," Ensign said. "You remember that famous day he lied to the American people, plus the fact I thought he committed perjury. That's why I voted for the articles of impeachment."

John Ensign is arguing that President Clinton should have resigned because his marital infidelity broke the law, while Ensign's own infidelity didn't (which is arguable if you follow the $96,000 in hush money that the Ensign family sent to the family of his mistress).

Well, what about Hookerlover David Vitter's infidelity?  What about his Very Serious Sin?  If Republican Senator John Ensign's standard for resignation is whether or not one's marital infidelity is also "legally wrong," then wouldn't soliciting prostitutes qualify, as Republican David Vitter's, um, personal life included?

In short, according to his own explicit standard, Republican Senator John Ensign must think that Republican Senator David Vitter should resign.

For daily news and analysis on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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Classic Crisis Management

In the middle of a sex scandal? Tamp it down with a good exorcism story:

From John Ensign's college introduction to the Promise Keepers movement, through the Senator's current membership in a Las Vegas church within the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel denomination, to his current residence in a house owned by Youth With a Mission, a parachurch evangelical organization founded in 1960 by Loren Cunningham -- who espouses a doctrine of Christian infiltration of key societal sectors, Senator Ensign has throughout his political career associated with charismatic Christian religious entities in the forefront of promoting a radical and new approach that is redefining Christian evangelism, which now includes a heavy emphasis on the exorcism of demons as a key to a healthy, productive, and moral life.

That Ensign's probably not in much trouble politically says good things and bad things.

Bad: Ensign exploited his authority and entangled himself in the personal lives of staff members - one was paid with tax money, one with donor money. We should expect more from public servants - but instead the scandal's coverage focused mostly on the parents' $96k payout.

Good: It's encouraging that private, personal indiscretions generally have become less toxic to public figures. Scandal is when a public servant abuses their office, power, or the public's trust - not when they cheat on their partner.  

Bonus - every time a straight male Republican wrecks his marriage, the argument against gay rights becomes more of a farce.

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Ensign's parents gave $96,000 to family of senator's mistress

When Governor Mark Sanford's soap opera pushed Senator John Ensign's infidelity out of the news, I thought the senator from Nevada was in the clear. However, via Swing State Project I saw this story from Roll Call that should eventually lead to Ensign's resignation.

In April 2008, each of Ensign's parents gave $12,000 gifts to Cindy Hampton (who had been having an affair with the senator), her husband Doug Hampton, and both of the Hamptons' children. That's $96,000 Ensign's parents paid to the family of their son's mistress.

"The payments were made as gifts, accepted as gifts and complied with tax rules governing gifts. After the Senator told his parents about the affair, his parents decided to make the gifts out of concern for the well-being of long-time family friends during a difficult time. The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others," Ensign's lawyer Paul Coggins said in a statement.

Coggins also stressed that the payments were not from campaign or federal funds, and were not related to either Hampton's work for Ensign. "None of the gifts came from campaign or official funds nor were they related to any campaign or official duties. Senator Ensign has complied with all applicable laws and Senate ethics rules," Coggins said.

I would like to know more about that "pattern of generosity." Who suggested that Ensign's parents make these gifts? Who else has received $12,000 gifts from the senator's parents over the years?

If sending $96,000 to the Hampton family was intended to buy anyone's silence, it didn't work. In June Doug Hampton asked a Fox News reporter to cover how "Senator Ensign pursued and engaged in a relationship with my wife."

I do agree with Doug Hampton about one thing: "Senator Ensign has no business serving in the US (sic) Senate anymore!"

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Tarnished Shields: Mark Sanford and the Morally Bankrupt Family Values Reublicans

    The hypocrisy and moral turpitude of the leaders of the Republican party is just one reason why only 21 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans.

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So Will Ensign Resign?

John Ensign in 1998:

Clear differences emerged during a series of questions from the audience. Ensign repeated his call for President Clinton's resignation in light of his admitted affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Reid called the affair immoral but said he would "keep an open mind" and let the process proceed before deciding whether to impeach Clinton.

John Ensign in 2007:

Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada said Thursday it would be best for the Senate and the GOP if Sen. Larry Craig resigned, but stopped short of calling for the Idaho Republican's resignation over his arrest in an airport men's room.

"I wouldn't put myself, hopefully, in that kind of a position like that but if I was in a position like that, I think that's what I would do," Ensign told The Associated Press. "He's going to have to answer that for himself... I think the pressure will continue to build."

Nate Silver says not to expect a resignation by Ensign following the revelation that he had been engaged in a long-term affair with a married staffer. That's probably not wrong, particularly considering that the last two Republican Senators to find themselves caught in hypocritical moral situations -- David Vitter and Larry Craig -- were able to weather their storms. What's more, unlike Vitter and Craig, Ensign's scandal is breaking at a time of major news saturation, with the election in Iran, healthcare reform and the Sotomayor nomination all occurring simultaneously. Then again, Ensign is quite strongly on the record calling not once but twice for the resignation of a public official for an act of moral indiscretion, so I wouldn't assume he's going to get out of this scandal too easily.

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