"Last year I had an affair," said Ensign. "I violated the vows of my marriage." Ensign did not name the woman with whom he had the affair, saying only that "the woman who I was involved with and her husband were close friends of mine." He added that he was "committed to my service in the United States Senate".
There was also the possibility of blackmail.
But whether the aggrieved husband tried to blackmail Ensign or not, having an affair with the spouse of a staff member is extremely low behavior.
Two Senate Republican sources close to Sen. John Ensign of Nevada told FOX News that a former employee had asked Ensign for money in what both sources described as a case of "extortion."
The employee, Doug Hampton, worked in Ensign's Senate office, and his wife, Cindy Hampton, worked for Ensign's re-election campaign. Both ceased working for the senator shortly after the affair ended, the sources said, with Cindy Hampton receiving a severance package. The circumstances of Doug Hampton's departure remain unclear.
The underlying problem for Sen. Ensign is that he's a self-righteous guy from the religious right who's condemned the sexual foibles of other politicians in no uncertain terms. When the Monica Lewinsky scandal erupted, Ensign called on Bill Clinton to resign as president, saying he had "no credibility left." Ensign was also highly critical of Larry Craig's arrest in a bathroom sex-sting, saying that Craign should resign from the Senate: “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.”
That was in September, 2007. Three months later, Ensign was in precisely that position with one of his own staffers.
Adding everything up, it's easy to criticize Ensign as a self-righteous hypocrite and plenty of people are doing just that. And it's good for Ensign to feel the weight of that judgment. Maybe Maybe he'll be less of a jerk about other people as a result.
Still, I believe in compassion for politicians with wandering eyes.
I know I've posted on this before, but temptation is everywhere for politicians. Guys like Ensign are pretty people (Ensign has that Mitt Romney shock of hair) and they come into contact with all kinds of other pretty people who tell them how great they are in the most sincere way. A couple of drinks later, Mr. Political Big-Shot is turned on by someone who, luck would have it, is eager to go to bed with them.
That appears to be what happened with John Edwards and Rielle Hunter.
Or in Bill Clinton's case, an intern is flashing her thong your way.
I'm not sure what happened in Ensign's case. Maybe the general sexual charge of politics was too much of a temptation for him. Maybe he is a hypocritical jerk calling on other "fallen" politicians to resign while actively pursuing affairs himself. Who knows, perhaps he's a monster like Eliot Spitzer choking prostitutes or Robert Packwood sexully harassing female staffers.
Hopefully, the tabloids will be able to sort everything out.
For now though, I'm going to give Ensign the benefit of the doubt, think it's a matter of temptation, and hope that he'll develop more sympathy for other people with problems.