Skip to comments.An Imperfect Senator's Road to Redemption
Posted on 06/20/2009 5:51:39 AM PDT by Kaslin
Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign was unfaithful to his wife; there's no excusing broken vows. But the steps he's taken since the story broke on Wednesday provide a reminder that there is a road to redemption in truth. And not just for one U.S. senator and his family, but for American politics. In his public confession and acts of atonement, Ensign has brought a refreshing change to the roster of recent Beltway loose-belt scandals that have hit both sides of the aisle.
In a press conference, Ensign -- allegedly motivated by a blackmail threat - admitted to an affair with an employee. He didn't excuse his misdeed. He said he regretted it. He apologized for it. He said, "It is the worst thing I have ever done in my life." He said that in the wake of the adultery, he and his wife sought counseling, and claimed that their marriage has never been stronger.
The next day, Ensign resigned his leadership post in the Senate. That same day, the media, naturally, was all atwitter. Twitter, too.
That Ensign cheated on his wife wasn't so much the cause of the outrage as was the fact that he had dared to criticize Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky debacle. Ensign said that the president's behavior was "an embarrassing moment for the country."
Well, it was. Ensign's own embarrassing moment doesn't change that.
On MSNBC's "Hardball," host Chris Matthews exposed social conservatives -- Ensign counts himself among us -- as "no different than anybody else." This is not breaking news.
The left-wing blogosphere quickly pounced on Ensign's official remarks regarding the institution of marriage: "Marriage recognizes the ideal of a father and mother living together to raise their children," he said from the Senate floor, in a statement in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment. He said, "Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded," a sacred institution predating our Constitution and government.
Again, a politician's failings do not render all to which he subscribes morally null. The facts remain: marriage is a cornerstone, regardless of the many temptations to violate it. In a bastardized, and by now conventional, view of hypocrisy, it is unacceptable for someone who is not a perfect person to ever make a statement grounded in conscience, morality or natural law.
Presumably, then, all Christians should throw out their Book.
The Bible is and always has been directed to sinners. And, save for the star of the show, preaching comes from sinners, too. Christ warned Peter in Gethsemane, "Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." In Romans, Saint Paul said: "What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate." Men (and women) believing one thing and falling short has a long history.
In an editorial, the Washington Post decreed, "Mr. Ensign's marital infidelity is a matter between him and his wife. Mr. Ensign's hypocrisy ... is a matter of legitimately broader interest." Marital infidelity isn't a wholly irrelevant issue when it comes to public service. It does speak to character. It's not an illegitimate question for a constituent to wonder what a politician's oath of office means to him once he's broken his marriage vows. But hypocrisy isn't what the Post and so many others say it is.
"We modern men and women hate hypocrisy, but we have a mistaken idea of what this means." The Rev. Thomas D. Williams, author of "Knowing Right from Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience" (Hachette, 2009) recently said. "Some say that a hypocrite doesn't practice what he preaches, but this isn't hypocrisy. None of us perfectly practices what he preaches. We all fall short. The solution of lowering our moral bar to match our imperfect behavior doesn't make us less hypocritical; it just makes us more mediocre. Keeping the bar high and maintaining our moral ideals helps us to strive for moral greatness rather than settling for moral poverty."
I confess that my first instinct was certainly not to praise Ensign upon learning of his infidelity. But in our world of flawed men and women, surely there should be a little room for empathy on an op-ed page. John Ensign did a shameful thing. He is ashamed of it. I'm sure he won't be perfect from here on in, but his actions in the wake of his fall make a statement about personal responsibility -- to family, to a public oath, to truth. And in this, he is not setting a poor example.
He didn’t come out and say “I did not have sex with that woman!” He admitted it and apologized. That is unusual for a politician. Jesus did say to the pharisees “he that is without sin cast the first stone.” Unfortunately the democrats and media only cast stones @ the republicans.
He was going to be caught so of course he apologized. I just wish he would resign so we don’t have to relieve this disgrace again when he runs again in 2012. If he cared for his country he would leave today. An anti-family values person (which he is...cheating on his wife does not promote family values AND with a married women) should not be part of the conservative movement that is for sure! You can’t argue with me unless you are a liberal.
The first sentence robs much of the power from the third.
Sorry that I have such a jaded opinion, but my first reaction has to be "He regretted it because he got caught." All the other words are calculated, whether true and sincere or not, to save his ass.
Let's face it, an incident like this is far more damaging to a Republican and his party, than to the Democrats and theirs. It immediately has 'legs' in the media and is used to defeat Pubbies and whatever hope we have for their pseudo-quasi-kindasorta conservatism, much as it did it the 2006 mid-term elections.
Simply put -- Mr. Ensign, the Republican can't afford to have people like you in the party, despite how "human" you have proven yourself to be, or how deeply you regret your "mistake." Because of the disparity of treatment in the press, your kind of behavior is poison to any hope of a conservative resurgence.
I think Gov. Gibbons will have to resign, too. He is getting divorced. If the details of his marriage come out publicly, he will have to resign.
Just will never understand these people. They are given so much yet it is never enough and they step over the line in their thirst for more. In the end the lose it all and drag others down with them.
This guy is pathetic as are all of the hypocrites that populate Washington and other centers of power. Is it too much to ask that you keep your pants on in return for the power, prestige and ability to serve? What a joke.
Oh no I agree, he should leave. I just find it amusing how quickly the dems and media jump on any republican that has done something despicable and act all moral about it. Especially when they are so immoral. I don’t care for Ensign and wouldn’t mind him leaving, but I also admit that when he was caught he did apologize, don’t remember Clinton, or any Dem. doing the same thing. Instead they deny, deny, and then change the subject and the media lets them. It is very frustrating.
So only perfect people can be conservatives? When did that happen? Ensign did something wrong. Whatever his motives for going public, he didn’t deny his actions, nor did he excuse them. I see no political value in his resigning and giving the Democrats even more power in the senate. To what end? Satisfying your requirement for his personal purity at the expense of the country’s further slide into socialism? No contest, imo.
...He regretted it...
I regret it when I get caught doing something bad, too. Especially if I am about to be blackmailed about it.
I have no use for these holier than thou politicians, and he was one, of either party who exude piety until thet get caught. Senator, keep your zipper in the upright and locked position!
I like that. Thanks.
In no way did I give him an excuse. But I do realize that conservatism is not based SOLELY on one’s marital behavior — behavior that he acknowledged w/out the usual political denial or excuses. Was his infidelity wrong? Of course it was, as both he and his wife know far better than we do.
The question now is whether this stain requires further punishment to satisfy some people’s need for perfection on the R. side of the aisle.
We expect moral perfection in Republicans, but none in Democrats. The press only points out GOP foibles and character flaws, and attacks people like Sarah Palin even if none exists. She was called “slutty” by Letterman for no reason but an attack.
These same losers attacking Ensign thought it was fine that Clinton did as he pleased and protected him. They advocate no responsibility or loyalty to anything but the revolution. But they have their own morality plays, racism, sexism, et al...
At some point we have to quit insisting our side be saints and worry about their voting records.
What was the threat — that it would be revealed to his wife, or that it would be revealed to the public? If he had already told his wife as part of the reconciliation, and only went public with the admission due the blackmail threat, then I disagree with your assessment.
Quite right. I only add that IMO, all sinful Republicans should resign as well.
Donatism has been a recurring problem for Catholicism and has always been a problem for Republicans at FR.