Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 3, 2011

ENSIGN'S DISGRACED DEPARTURE.... Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) officially resigned from the Senate yesterday, a day before he was scheduled to testify under oath about his humiliating sex/corruption scandal. He couldn't have known when he announced his departure two weeks ago that the timing would be so fortuitous -- Ensign's departure was largely overlooked in light of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

But before the far-right Republican's name slips into the history books and out of the public eye, I'd note for the last time how very fortunate Ensign has been, at least as far as the public and the media is concerned. The New York Times' Eric Lipton, who has done some great reporting on this story, noted recently that Ensign's scandal is the biggest for a sitting senator since Bob Packwood was forced to resign 16 years ago due to sexual misconduct.

But in 1995, Packwood's scandal, involving the sexual harassment of women staffers, was a huge story for the political media. Ensign, in contrast, has had it quite easy.

The media feeding frenzy just never happened. All of the elements were in place -- salacious sex scandal, high-profile sitting senator, breathtaking hypocrisy, secret payoffs, violations of lobbying and ethics rules, etc. -- but major news organizations just didn't bite. There were no camera crews staked out in front of Ensign's home. There were no op-eds on the need for Ensign to step down. There were no reporters chasing him through the halls of Senate office buildings, demanding answers for his alleged crimes. There was no breathless speculation about what the Ensign scandal would mean for the Republican Party.

Just a few days after a sitting senator announced he would resign in disgrace, most of the Sunday morning shows didn't even think to mention the development.

Indeed, even after getting caught and finding himself a target of the FBI and the Senate ethics committee, John Ensign, as recently as February, planned to seek re-election -- and no one pointed and laughed.

Nevertheless, apparently eager to avoid testifying, Ensign delivered a farewell speech yesterday, apologizing for his misconduct.

"Often times, the more power and prestige a person achieves, the more arrogant a person can become," Mr. Ensign, a Nevada Republican who is retiring on Tuesday, said as he spoke for the last time on the Senate floor. [...]

The senator, first elected in 2000, said he had grown "blind to how arrogant and self-centered that I had become." He said he regretted calling for the resignations of two former Republican colleagues -- Ted Stevens of Alaska and Larry Craig of Idaho -- for transgressions of their own when he served as his party's Senate campaign chief.

"My caution to all of my colleagues is to surround yourself with people who will be honest with you about how you really are and what you are becoming and then make them promise not to hold back," said Mr. Ensign, considered a rising Republican star before his career imploded. "I wish I had done this sooner, but this is one of the hardest lessons that I've had to learn."

Those who've followed this story closely know how absurd this is -- Ensign's friends, including other Republican colleagues in the Senate, were honest with him, and urged him to clean up his act. Ensign refused.

He added, "I even tried not to become caught up in my own self-importance. Unfortunately, the urge to believe in it was stronger than the power to fight it."

I might note that the last thing the senator should be talking about are his "urges."

For what it's worth, fellow senators traditionally turn out to hear fellow members' farewell speeches. Ensign spoke yesterday to an empty chamber.

Steve Benen 11:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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Now that he has ample time on his hands, we can expect him to launch his Presidential Exploratory Committee any day now. . .

Posted by: DAY on May 3, 2011 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

And that will take place on MEET THE PROPAGANDISTS hosted by corporate cum slut David Gregory......

Posted by: stormskies on May 3, 2011 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Mr Lipton has done an excellent job, but really he does exaggerate. I quote

"Eric Lipton ... noted recently that Ensign's scandal is the biggest for a sitting senator since Bob Packwood was forced to resign 16 years ago ... Ted Stevens of Alaska."

Mistakes were made by prosecutors but Stevens was convicted of 7 (seven) felonies. Ensign is not currently even under criminal investigation (although perhaps that is another prosecutorial mistake).

Stevens actually did run for re-election, and placed a good solid second, when appealing his felony convictions.

Lipton's assessment is based on the degrees of arrogance and hypocricy of Ensign, Packwood and Stevens. As Ensign noted, he achieved an astonishing level of arrogance, but he just isn't in the same league as Stevens was.

I blush to type ill of the recently deceased, but facts are facts.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on May 3, 2011 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Time had an article about the "Top ten political sex scandals" in 2009. This one came in a number six.

"Scandal: An affair with a male prostitute
How Outed: The Washington Times broke the news after the escort in question shared his story with the paper

Widely regarded as one of the most intelligent and well spoken members of the House of Representatives, Barney Frank, a Democratic U.S. congressman for nearly 30 years and the first openly gay member of the House, almost undid his career in 1989 after an affair with Steve Gobie, a male prostitute. Although Frank was single at the time — thus not committing adultery — he did pay someone for sex (with personal funds), which is illegal in his state of Massachusetts. But the poor judgment didn't end there. Frank hired Gobie to run errands and allowed him to live at his home, where Frank obviously hoped he would be rehabilitated and renounce his life of sin. The only problem: Gobie kept on working as a prostitute — from Frank's home.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1721111_1721210_1883878,00.html #ixzz1LIyEBn1Y

Not to take anything away from Edwards of course. His is still going on.

Posted by: outandabout on May 3, 2011 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

And another republican turd goes down the bowl. Too bad we can't flush more of them.

Posted by: Roger the Cabin Boy on May 3, 2011 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK
He couldn't have known when he announced his departure two weeks ago that the timing would be so fortuitous

He couldn't have known when he announced his departure two weeks ago that the timing would be so accidental? That's what you wrote.

Posted by: navamske on May 3, 2011 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Is there a summary somewhere as to why what Ensign did is not a prosecutable crime? Why was he not prosecuted? Would they have to prove some sort of direct communications / racketering / fraud case between his in laws and their $96,000 hush money pay off to the woman he bonked, and said woman's hubby / fomerly his aide?

They couldn't get enough evidence that Ensign was shaking down donor companies to find mr. former aid/hubby of bonkee work as a lobbyist?


Posted by: bigtuna on May 3, 2011 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

He's a Republican. They have no shame these days. Nothing is beneath them and they fear no reprisals from either the voters or media. Republicans will vote for their disgraced senator simply because he is Republican.

We should be ashamed.

Posted by: Darsan54 on May 3, 2011 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

No big press coverage once again proves the old standard - IOKIYAR!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 3, 2011 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

He's a Republican. They have no shame these days. Nothing is beneath them and they fear no reprisals from either the voters or media. Republicans will vote for their disgraced senator simply because he is Republican.

We should be ashamed.
Posted by: Darsan54 on May 3, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Yes, we should. But of course, Ensign is a Republican, so he'll end up on some board of directors or on the wingnut welfare circuit, getting outrageous speaking fees, or as a commenter on FOX "news."

Of course, it goes without saying that if Ensign had been a Democrat, the media coverage of his "urges" would have rivaled the royal wedding...

Posted by: John on May 3, 2011 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Another example of the Librul Media twisting things the way they do.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on May 3, 2011 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

The day Ensign announced he was resigning the WaPo put that story on like page A4 but put a story on the front page about Charlie Sheen getting a police escort in D.C. Seriously. Doesn't that tell you about the D.C. media AND the WaPo.

Posted by: ET on May 3, 2011 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

It's because the GOP practices omerta. No one asks Republicans about their scandals because they know the Republicans act like a crime family: no one saw nothin', no one even knows what you're talking about.

It's hard to ask a question when you know you're not going to get an answer. Of course, you're supposed to ask the question and then do a story on how they were afraid to answer, but then you get death threats. Still, that's why they get the big money.

Posted by: Rick Massimo on May 4, 2011 at 5:25 AM | PERMALINK
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