Ellen Ratner is the White House correspondent and bureau chief for the Talk Radio News service. She is also Washington bureau chief and political editor for Talkers Magazine. In addition, Ratner is a news analyst at the Fox News Channel.More ↓Less ↑
Sex scandals in Washington are nothing new. People are elected to be politicians, but that does not stop them from being human.
For those of us who have lived through the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the dishonesty of President Clinton, both with the public and First Lady Hillary Clinton, this is a much lesser scandal. We have lived with the diaries of Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon typed by his Senate secretary. We had to put up with the Minnesota airport bathroom disclosures of Sen. Larry Craig. All of this makes us feel like the press and the general public are in the middle of a soap opera and not a powerful democratic county.
When the Sen. John Ensign affair was revealed, I was not surprised. Ensign had taken very “family values” positions. Often it is the politicians who take the most outwardly “moral” positions who are the ones who are found wanting in terms of their own moral actions. In mental health parlance, when someone takes a position that is polar opposite to what is happening in their own lives, we say it is a reaction formation. So, an adult child of an alcoholic parent who refuses to ever touch a drop would be considered to have a “reaction formation.” A politician who fights his own sexual demons but professes certain values also has a reaction formation.
Ensign clearly had impulses for a very long time, and he probably had been fighting his impulses for years. He joined the “C” Street Family, a group of elected members of Congress who are Evangelical and support everything “family values.”
The story is that his affair with the wife of his highly placed aide was during a separation from the senator’s wife. His staffer, Doug Hampton, was quite married. Allegations have surfaced that Ensign’s parents paid off Doug Hampton and that Ensign arranged for his former aide, Hampton, to obtain a lobbying job. All of this is not pretty, especially since there is a one year moratorium on lobbying, which his cheated-on staffer allegedly did not obey. There is a story now about Hampton’s indictment and that the poor guy might actually go to jail for violating that one-year ban.
This week the Senate Ethics Committee was moving toward hiring an independent prosecutor, and there is a trove of documents that the committee is thinking of releasing. Ensign, who had previously said he would not run for re-election but would not resign, did just that. He resigned on Friday. By all means, that should be the end of it. Embarrassed and disgraced, he should be allowed to return to his family with whom he is reunited. Hampton should be free from legal problems as well. He obviously was in a profound state of distress caused by his boss’ and wife’s actions.
Now, the New York Times and others are calling for the investigation to continue. They want questions answered and documents to be released. Why? What is it going to do, except give talk-show hosts more fodder and take more valuable time and taxpayer money?
Politicians are people, and the days of tarring and feathering people have long past. We have more important things to spend time and money on. It serves absolutely no purpose to continue this investigation. It does nothing for the people of Nevada and nothing for the people of the United States. Let Ensign and his staffer, Doug Hampton, go back to their families and their lives in Nevada in peace.