So much for whatever happens in Vegas, staying in Vegas. Nevada Senator John Ensign's extra-marital shenanigans which had been overshadowed in the last few weeks by the odd antics of his fellow republicans Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin are back in the news. And it looks like we've hit the jackpot. For repubs the jackpot is the sort perps found themselves in on NYPD Blue. For libs, we're talking about the kind Ensign's dad,a retired casino mogul hated to pay out.
Ensign, in case you forgot, confessed to having an affair with the wife of his former chief of staff, Doug Hampton. The wife, Cindy also had some sort of gig as a bookkeeper on the Senator's campaign(and managed to get her salary doubled during the illicit interlude). The exact timeline is murky. The affair started around Christmas of 2007 and lasted, according to Ensign through August 2008. Hampton--the hubby-- who said he was told by the senator both " I'm in love with your wife," and " you can't work for me anymore" in the same conversation, claims the passionate fling burned out after a few months. However long it lasted, the way it ended--and just who was involved--is what will continue to dog Ensign, who by the way, is the only veterinarian in Congress.
Here's where you need a scorecard and maybe a movie director (after tackling both Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons,Ron Howard may be up for the task). While in D.C. Ensign lives at someplace called the " Prayer House" on C Street with a few other right-wing, religious politicos including Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn. The house is designated as a church and run by a shadowy group known as The C Street Fellowship or The Family. According to Harper's writer Jeff Sharlet, who infiltrated the group and penned the new book, The Family, these Christian power brokers often call themselves " The Christian Mafia." They advocate "biblical capitalism" and training people to " take over the world." Of course, they don't only appeal to right-wing repubs. Doug Coe the group's leader,who often praises Hitler's tactics, urging his followers to use them to spread the group's fundamentalist agenda in his sermons,has been Hillary Clinton's spiritual advisor for years. The group also hosts the mainstream National Prayer Breakfast which has featured keynotes from luminaries like Sen. Joe Lieberman and Bono!
And in case you're keeping score: Mark Sanford is also involved with The Family. And Sen. Coburn says he can't testify at a Senate hearing or trial because he's a doctor. Okay, he is; but he's an obstetrician. So I doubt that doctor-patient confidentiality business applies. Unless Ensign is starring in a real life version of Junior. And if he is, his reality show should knock the Octomom and John & Kate off the air.
After being outed by Doug Hampton, members of the group including Coe's sons and Sen. Coburn strong-armed Ensign into writing a Dear Cindy letter to his paramour; they even drove him to the FedEx office to be sure he mailed it. After escaping his guards, Ensign supposedly called Cindy to tell her the letter was on its way and to disregard its contents, all written under duress. The next day, according to the cuckolded husband, Ensign rendezvoused with Cindy in Sin City.
The Family also instructed Ensign that the Hamptons had to "fade away" and "be made whole." This is where Ensigns mommy and daddy come in. They dipped into their casino coffers and paid the Hamptons $96,000 to help them start life anew in Colorado and get the heck off their baby boy's presidential campaign trail (anyone ever think he was a contender before all this nonsense?). If it was silence they were after, they didn't get it.Doug Hampton is hitting his own bitter media trail. As for the elder Ensigns, they don't see what the big deal is. They say they were just showing" a pattern of generosity" towards the Hamptons as they have shown, over the years, to others. Tell that to the IRS.
Doggone it. Ensign thought he was free and clear. But now it looks like even GOP stalwarts will have him back in the desert by summer's end. He may have to return to his old profession. Should be a natural transition. After all, they must be fighting like cats and dogs in the Ensign household.
POLITRIX: Those bemoaning the apparent loss of both Sanford and Ensign and maybe even Palin as GOP 2012 contenders, expect comebacks from Rudy, Romney and maybe even Newt. But don't leave Larry Craig off the wish list. After all, the disgraced former Idaho senator is known for his wide stance on many issues.
PALINS on PARADE Gov. Palin's ex-almost son-in-law Levi Johnson knows why the Mavericky One called it quits. The young dad, who's courting his own fifteen minutes and a book deal, says it's all about the Benjamins. " She was very excited about a book and reality TV show," he said. Bravo execs must be on the phone making the deal. The Real Maverick Housewives of Wasilla will stick a spear in those Jersey girls.
HE's SMART ENOUGH: For those worried that Al Franken,( who was finally sworn in as Minn. senator), doesn't have the temperament for Congress, fear not. I interviewed the former SNL writer/comedian/Air America host a few years back, and found him smart, serious, and I hate to say it, a tad on the dull side. His pal, Newsweek's Howard Fineman concurs, labeling the former Harvard math nerd, who btw, also co-wrote the acclaimed, dramatic Meg Ryan film, When a Man Loves a Woman, "sometimes as dull as watching paint dry." And gosh darn it, people like him.
Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.