Church of Twain: Of Senator Sanctimony, virtue and the bottom line

Loyal Republicans are only grousing a little at the silent treatment of U.S. Sen. John Ensign after he admitted carrying on with Cynthia Hampton, a former campaign worker and his wife’s best friend.

When word surfaced recently that Ensign’s wealthy parents had paid Hampton, her husband, and two of her children a total of $96,000 in “gifts” to help smooth over the wrinkled bed sheets, skeptics like me barked that it smelled of a payoff.

For Senator Sanctimony, the embarrassing exposure has stunted his Senate career and ended any dreams he had of rising in the ranks.

But unlike others in the press, I’m not so sure Ensign’s days in politics are numbered. He’s up for re-election in 2012, and if the fallout from the sex scandal gets as quiet as the senator himself, he’d still be the favorite in a lot of Republican hearts.

And just because he’s exposed himself as an enormous hypocrite and supremely self-centered fellow who is still willing to allow his parents to take the fall for him, that doesn’t mean he’d be without support.

The Senate isn’t brimming with members of the highest virtue. The joint’s a scandal factory. So perhaps even mentioning the word “virtue” is out of place in this discussion.

But Saint Mark of Missouri had a few things to say about virtue, and the lines bear repeating in light of current events.

He wrote in “Innocents Abroad,” “Virtue has never been as respectable as money.”

It’s a line Senator Sanctimony and Doug Hampton ought to keep in mind.

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