I'm getting the same sinking feeling reading about Sen. John Ensign's "affair" with a staffer that I got reading about David Carradine's "suicide" in Thailand. Something else was going on....
Talking Points Memo has been been documenting the twists and turns. And there's the usual hypocrisy angle—Ensign portrayed himself as a big defender of family values—but I'm thinking the story is more interesting than that. Sen. Ensign had an affair with Cynthia Hampton, a staffer. Cynthia's husband, Douglas Hampton, also worked for the senator. Doug Hampton and John Ensign were reportedly very close and Ensign, at his press conference about the affair, described the Hamptons like this:
“I will not mention any names but the woman who I was involved with and her husband were close friends and both of them worked for me. Our families were close. That closeness put me into situations which led to my inappropriate behavior. We caused deep pain to both families and for that I am sorry."
Hm. Close friends... inappropriate behavior... hmm...
Are the Ensigns swingers? Were they swinging with the Hamptons?
Admitting to swinging would do more damange to Ensign with his conservative supporters and apologists than "confessing" to your run-of-the-hypocrisy-mill extramarital affair. Most people can wrap their heads around cheating; most people have at least contemplated cheating on their spouses. But sleeping with someone else with your spouse's permission and/or participation, which involves no betrayal, is viewed as more depraved by conservatives than good ol' fashioned adulterous behavior. Conservatives can vote for a contrite adulterer. But an unapologetic swinger? (Unapologetic because he has nothing to apologize for.) What kind of message would that send to our children?
So it's unlikely that Ensign, who nurses presidential ambitions, would admit to swinging. And the apparent estrangement between the Ensigns and the Hamptons does work against my theory. But sometimes swingers have nasty breakups with a couple with whom they've been playing.
I'm thinking there's more—and more damaging—dirt to come on Ensign.