Ensign's Hypocrisy Is Reflected in Stance on D.C. Voting Rights

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R-Nev.) held a news conference this week to admit that he had an affair with a campaign worker. Mr. Ensign's marital infidelity is a matter between him and his wife. Mr. Ensign's hypocrisy -- all too familiar to District residents, for reasons we will come to in a moment -- is a matter of legitimately broader interest.

Mr. Ensign, a leading conservative voice of his party with presidential aspirations, termed his adultery "absolutely the worst thing that I've ever done in my life." He didn't explain why he had decided to disclose the affair, but Politico and other media outlets reported that the husband of the woman involved asked him for a substantial amount of money. It's an assertion that warrants further explanation. Mr. Ensign said he remains committed to serving in the Senate, although he did resign a GOP leadership post.

We couldn't help but contrast Mr. Ensign's contrition with his bombast in calling on President Bill Clinton to resign after the disclosure of Mr. Clinton's relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Or his aggressive, but unsuccessful, campaign to get then-Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) to resign following his arrest in an airport bathroom sex sting. But then, a certain relativism in world view is nothing new for the Nevada senator.

Mr. Ensign, you see, is the senator who attached to the D.C. voting rights bill a noxious amendment that would strip the District of the right to write its own gun laws. He claimed his interest was in gun rights, not in blocking democracy for the District. If that were so, he might have simply moved to disallow the District's gun-regulation legislation; he didn't bother to try. More to the point, he would never, in a million years, strip Nevada officials of their right to write local laws or in any other way visit upon them so extreme a sovereignty-stripping measure. But then, what works for Mr. Ensign at any given moment is the only thing that seems to matter.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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