How Can It Be [Legally] Wrong When It Feels So Right: Sen. John Ensign Defends Affair as Not “Legally Wrong”

200px-Sen_John_Ensign_official(2)225px-Bill_ClintonThis week Sen. John Ensign announced that he would remain in the Senate and insisted that he had not “done anything legally wrong.” He also rejected analogies to Bill Clinton, who he voted to convict in his Senate trial.

Ensign’s statement is fascinating from a legal standpoint. First, while the Clinton analogy is getting widespread play, he is right — it is different. Clinton supporters continue to portray the impeachment as based on his affair with an intern. It was not. It was based on his lying under oath. In fairness to Ensign’s critics, Ensign is partially responsible for opening himself up for criticism because he himself muddied the waters over the basis for the impeachment in the following statement:

“President Clinton stood right before the American people and he lied to the American people,” Ensign said. “You remember that famous day he lied to the American people, plus the fact I thought he suborned perjury. That’s why I voted for the articles of impeachment.”

He also insisted that “the truth must come out” in demanding the type of full disclosure that he is now avoiding in his personal scandal.

I supported the impeachment (despite supporting Clinton) because I believe that perjury on any subject remains a serious crime for the president. No one ever suggested that an affair warranted impeachment — a preposterous position.

Second, he is not entirely right about the legality of his affair. Ironically, Republicans have largely defended criminal morals laws. Many states had (and some continue to have) laws criminalizing adultery. While Nevada seems the least likely state to criminalize adultery, the affair took place in the Northeast and possible Virginia. Virginia has had a long criminal provision on adultery and a few years ago prosecuted a lawyer for adultery. For a column on that case and criticism of such laws, click here. In my view, these laws are unconstitutional. Indeed, Sen. Ensign should now be more sympathetic with citizens who have had their private sexual relations criminalized.
After receiving a bizarre standing ovation from the Chamber of Commerce (which appears to view adultery as an inspiring credential), Ensign called the matter simply a “distraction.”

That appears to have been how his parents treated the matter when they wrote checks to Cynthia Hampton and her husband Doug worth $96,000.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting if he runs on the slogan “John Ensign: Legally Immoral for Over Six Years.” Indeed, he could get Barbara Mandrell to sign the new Ensign campaign song: “How Can It Be [Legally] Wrong When It Feels So Right.”

For the full story, click here.

6 thoughts on “How Can It Be [Legally] Wrong When It Feels So Right: Sen. John Ensign Defends Affair as Not “Legally Wrong””

  1. MIke Licht:

    “John Ensign is a man of integrity. Everybody at C Street says so…”


    …and a damn fine dresser, too.

  2. I thought Sen. Ensign was a big family values guy. I guess it isn’t a problem when he is the one committing adultery. How many times did he stand in front of the microphone and deny any affair(s)? Isn’t that lying to the American public? Isn’t Ensign another of the Republicans that believes that America is a Christian nation? If so, what does the Bible say about adultery? I seem to recall the good Benedictine Nuns telling me that adultery was a very big sin. I guess not in Ensign’s Christian nation. By the way, if it wasn’t a “big deal”, why did he(his parents) pay money to the woman?

  3. And where does Senator Ensign stand on the issue of a president lying to Congress on the issue of WMD? May we assume that he was screaming for the impeachment of George W. Bush, or that he is now supporting an investigation into the involvement of both Mr. Bush and his sidekick, Cheney, in the torture of prisoners; invading the privacy of average citizens without a FISA warrant, and other reported irregularities?

    Something is seriously wrong when a lie about infidelity (albeit including the crime of perjury) is more serious than lies that result in the deaths of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of people in a vanquished land. I always thought that a president lying to Congress was an impeachable offense, yet it earned Bush and Cheney another four years in office.

    Go figure.

  4. In the Mormon practice they were able to have multiple marriages until they joined the Union and women lost the tight to vote at the same time.

    Is taking the wife of another man recognized as justified under Gods laws or justifiable homicide under mans law?

  5. When my party and Der Fureur is in control, I cannot be held accountable for my actions. That is how it is different.

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