The John Ensign sex scandal raises three issues, two of which ought to be dismissed.
First, the U.S. senator from Nevada engaged in bad behavior. He was married and he commenced for a few months getting romantically physical with a woman not his wife.
So it goes. That’s a betrayal of his wife and is therefore between him and his wife. It would appear — though we know appearances can deceive and you can just never know — that the two of them have worked it out.
OK. Let’s move on.
Second, Ensign was a rather spectacular personal hypocrite. He was in this outfit proclaiming its supposed marital virtue and fidelity by its very name, Promise Keepers.
That is a group that professes to be all about a private devotion that members presume to bother the rest of us with publicly, even by displaying automotive bumper stickers that declare for our unwitting consumption that these men “heart” their better halves.
To speak metaphorically, Ensign was in the back seat of the car defying what his bumper sticker was advertising. That bumper sticker was rocking, in other words.
Ensign presented himself as righteously committed when he was neither righteous nor committed.
Alas, this also happens. People don’t always measure up in action to the standards they set for themselves in the words they spout.
Perhaps they are liars. Perhaps they are deluded. Perhaps they just mess up.
The marriage gets a little rocky. One of the opposite gender shows a little tender understanding at the office. One thing leads to another.
It’s not to be condoned, but it is to be understood.
This affair has presumably ended and the promise breaker has presumably endeavored to rehabilitate himself as a promise keeper.
OK. Let’s move on.
Third, this guy fashioned a political image through which voters favored him with election to high office — through what amounts to a public trust — and this image turned out to be a fraud. A contract has been violated.
This is where the matter becomes the business of persons other than the man and his wife. Those would-be voters nationwide to whom Ensign had hoped to appeal, being a bit of a Republican presidential prospect. And those plainly would be the voters of Nevada, who elected Ensign based on pronouncements and posturing that amounted to deceit.
Ensign crowed that Bill Clinton ought to resign because he received oral sex from that intern. Then Ensign went out and had his own sex with a married woman working for him.
Ensign crowed that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry because marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. Then he went out and trivialized the thing he called sacred.
Ensign emerged as an integral cog in a political party that professes to be more virtuous than the other, though evidently it isn’t. It boasts of practicing family values even as this leading member betrays those values. It boasts of being more “Christian” and less “pagan” than the other, even as its key members — Gingrich, Craig, Vitter and now Ensign — seem to sin about as much, and perhaps more spectacularly, than the rest of us.
Maybe the voters will decide that this imperfect man remains a competent U.S. senator with potential to rehabilitate himself in their relationship.
I offer no advice on that. It is someone else’s business. I don’t live in Nevada and, if I did, I wouldn’t have voted for this guy in the first place. I wouldn’t have liked what he promised regardless of whether he was going to be true to it.
I think universal and affordable health care is more of a family value than what some preachy peacock sticks to his rocking bumper.
John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of “High Wire,” a book about Bill Clinton’s first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.