An extramarital affair

Nevada's junior U.S. senator, Republican John Ensign, recently let it be known he might consider a presidential run in 2012.

It must be presumed that lit a fire under the "opposition research" bloodhounds on the other side of the aisle. We'll likely discover the senator's public acknowledgement Tuesday, that he has had an extramarital affair with a member of his campaign staff, came in answer to a threat by other parties to go public with that information.

Unless, of course, political forces not friendly to Sen. Ensign's limited-government agenda got hold of the information, and offered to not make it public in exchange for a promise of some kind of action or inaction on the senator's part.

Regardless of the circumstances, the announcement certainly tarnishes Sen. Ensign's image on the national stage, not so much because of the underlying conduct -- Hollywood publicists, after all, today eagerly detail their clients' serial indiscretions to a gossip-happy press -- but because infidelity almost inevitably implies a pattern of deception.

The senator's behavior has caused pain to his family and his supporters. Whether it will handicap his ability to help provide the new, more principled leadership his party now needs, remains to be seen.

But despite the predictable cries of "hypocrisy" from leftists who are only spared the label because so little is expected of them, it's worth pointing out that this is a personal matter -- not the kind of betrayal of official trust Democrats demonstrate every time they sacrifice the public welfare to satiate their paymasters, the trial lawyers or the public employee unions.

Sen. Ensign remains one of the more principled spokesmen now on the Washington stage for a government limited in size and intrusiveness into our lives. It is to be hoped he does not back down for a single day from that role, which is the job Nevadans elected him to do, no matter what his personal imperfections.