My Affair's Better Than Your Affair

Ensign compares himself (favorably) to Clinton

By Jim Iovino
|  Thursday, Aug 20, 2009  |  Updated 11:10 AM PDT
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My Affair's Better Than Your Affair

Getty Images for Meet the Press

Sen. John Ensign -- cool under pressure.

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It has come to this. Politicians are trying to make themselves look good by saying their affairs aren't as bad as the affairs of other politicians.

Take Sen. John Ensign, for example.

When President Bill Clinton's relationship with a White House intern erupted a decade ago, the Nevada Republican called for his resignation.

Ensign, as you may recall, admitted to an extramarital affair with a former campaign aide.

But (BUT!), Ensign said Wednesday during a Nevada luncheon that his affair was different. He said during a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Fernley, Nevada, that he didn't lie under oath like Clinton did and that he hasn't "done anything legally wrong," according to the Associated Press.

"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."

The event was Ensign's first public appearance in his home state since acknowledging in June that he had an affair with his friend's wife, former campaign aide Cynthia Hampton.

"I think it would be inappropriate to start any other way than to say I'm sorry," Ensign said. "I've said I'm sorry. I can't say I'm sorry enough. I made a big mistake in my life and I apologize once again to all of you."

Ensign resigned as head of the Republican Policy Committee after admitting he had an affair with Hampton from December 2007 to August 2008. Hampton's husband, Doug, was Ensign's administrative assistant in his Washington, D.C., Senate office.

Ensign's attorney has said that Ensign's parents paid the woman and her family $96,000 after learning about the affair.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, government watchdog group, has called for investigations into Ensign by the Senate Ethics Committee and the Federal Elections Commission.

Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, said Ensign's distinction between his situation and that of Clinton was essentially an attempt to claim his affair was less contemptible.

"Isn't that a little like saying, 'It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is?'" she said in a statement.

Ensign told the AP that he can understand how some people might "have a problem" with him calling for Clinton's resignation but not resigning himself.

"I was in the House of Representatives but basically was sitting in judgment of the president evaluating the case. I was basically a jurist at that point. I thought there was a violation of a felony," he said.

Ensign said he never considered resigning from the Senate and is focused on fulfilling his six-year term.

"What we're trying to do is go around to people in the state of Nevada and tell them how sorry I am for what I did," Ensign said.

And that his affair wasn't as bad as someone else's affair.

Where's a fine, upstanding politician like John Edwards when you need him?

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