Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Junior Senator from the Trick or Treat State.

John Ensign is apparently only capable of speaking the truth when he thinks he's lying for effect.

John Ensign Scandal: Senate Republicans Decline To Defend Colleague: "'I have a little alert to tell Washington,' Ensign said during the televised hearings. 'The people don't trust us. They don't trust us to make these decisions.'"
It is the usual tranparent appeal to the prejudices of the wingnut social conservative fringe, who can be depended upon to take the assertion as gospel. On the other hand, it's a pretty moronic idea for a Senator be flinging around - because there is no more important thing than having a government that you CAN trust to "make those decisions." That is, after all, the job.

The man often referred to as "the Hairdo" by his critic is not the sort of man that it is wise to allow to take the point on the rather critical issue of the honor, honesty and credibility of the US form of Representative Government. One would think, at any rate, for the sad truth is there is no-one able to make that statement with greater unintended irony than John Ensign of Nevada. Or so I hope.

Nevada is a place where people come to get rich or get lost. It's politicians and business people tend to be of the former sort, but in some particular cases the latter happens - because fast buck artists don't tend to be drawn from the classes of "The Best and the Brightest." It could well be called the "Trick or Treat State;" it gained statehood on Oct. 31, 1864, with the issue of slavery being a trick or a treat, depending on which side you were on. Things pretty much continued in that vein thereafter. The Hairdo Himself tends to underline the importance of a good costume in getting the biggest haul of candy. I think this explains his membership in Promise Keepers®, a conservative Christian movement with the motto, "Men of Integrety."

Central to Promise Keepers® membership is a pledge to keep the Seven Promises, among them:
PROMISE 3: A Promise Keeper is committed to practicing spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity.
PROMISE 4:  A Promise Keeper is committed to building strong marriages and families through love, protection and biblical values.

Why go to all that trouble actually doing the right thing, when you can simply join an organization that says you are above reproach for a modest annual fee?

On both sides of my family tree, the sagas and tales of my axe-flinging ancestors whisper to me that there is no greater offense to Odin Skyfather than the unspilled blood of an Oathbreaker. Me, I do try to keep such intemperate reactions in check - particularly since the only thing Ensign did that would be of concern to my forebears was that he broke an oath - a bond precisely as sacred to them as a gambling debt.

Speaking of Nevada politics.

I advocate no violence; I merely find it hilarious that my ancestral collection of reprobates, raiders and remittance men would be offended by the man's offense, for, in a literary sense, it is exactly the sort of arrogance that the Gods, we are told of in the sagas, hero-tales and morality plays find remarkable enough to correct personally. So beware of doing harm to Ensign and his ilk.

It's imprudent to deprive a Ceiling Cat of it's mousie.

The New York Times published an overview
of the sorry tale of presumption, adultery, deceit, deception, corruption and malfeasance that in the end led to the scuttling of John Ensign's presidential ambitions.

Mr. Ensign allowed Senator Tom Coburn, a friend and fellow conservative Christian, to serve as an intermediary with the Hamptons in May in discussing a large financial settlement, to help them rebuild their lives. “John got trapped doing something really stupid and then made a lot of other mistakes afterward,” Mr. Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, said in an interview. “Judgment gets impaired by arrogance, and that’s what’s going on here.”
No doubt that we are supposed to presume that Sen. Coburn - fellow conservative Christian and close friend - was as suprised by this behavior, this abuse of his trust as was the husband of his paramour (and campaign treasurer), close friend Douglas Hampton. Goodness, how could anyone have possibly foreseen such a thing?

But, man, he does look fine in public; the looks of a George Clooney, albiet with the eyes of an inbred Cocker Spaniel.

His capacity for looking good in public, coupled with his inability to avoid causing problems that could indebt him to those who make problems go away for a price made him the perfect candidate to place into high office, from a certain cynical perspective.

It's no wonder at all to me that he was seen as being a likely heir to Ronald Regan.

Whatever the motives of those who knew Ensign of old and supported him for office anyway, they certainly got exactly what they paid for. But like many superficially attractive investments, he depreciated rapidly. There is an axiom referred to as Hanlon's Razor which states that one should never presume malice when stupidity alone is sufficient to explain the situation - but to presume such comprehensive stupidity on the part of his backers is so insulting that I prefer to err on the side of charity.

John is a man who's character is made evident by his behavior. My primary impression comes from constituent correspondence. I wish I had copies - but I shredded them with extreme prejudice.

They revealed a breathtaking arrogance coupled with the complete absence of any thought put into the issue I had raised. Since they were form-letter responses to common questions and he has a staff who are actually paid to be smarter and better-informed than he is, there's simply no excuse for headpatting platitudes as a response to a constituent's concerns - most especially when you wish them to be reassured in their complacent presumption of your competence.

It was not difficult to find an example of the Ensign Style of Communication in the public record. Indeed, he communicated it to the Editors of the New York Times.

Published: October 8, 2007
To the Editor:

Your Sept. 27 editorial “Let the Sunshine In” left your readers in the dark on the issue of transparency in the Senate. I support electronic filing of fund-raising reports in the Senate because, as we probably agree, disclosure leads to more transparency in government. I have never had a secret hold on this bill.

In the same spirit of transparency, I requested a vote on my amendment that would require groups filing ethics complaints against senators to reveal who is financing their efforts. Light needs to shine on this increasingly abused process, but Democrats are clearly afraid of voting on my amendment.

Your editorial compared the House and the Senate, but on this issue there is a big difference. In the House, a member of Congress has to file a complaint. In the Senate, there are no requirements — anyone can do it anonymously, without even a signature. The result of the Democrats’ blocking my amendment is that people can continue to hide in the dark to lob partisan attacks against senators.
John Ensign

U.S. Senator from Nevada
Washington, Sept. 28, 2007
See how it gives the dual impression of impervious arrogance while revealing an inability to comprehend that there might actually be a principle at stake?

It's long been a GOP meme that ANY ethical question directed at a Republican is merely a "partisan attack." And they should know. They'd pioneered that style of political action with their attacks on Bill Clinton. So, we should all understand that when ethics complaints are being made, they aren't really ethics complaints. They are just attempts to replace one sumbitch with another, equally corrupt sumbitch who owes his loyalty to different backers and gets his political support by pandering to a different segment of the credulous public.

But - even if that WERE true - it is still a strange position for a Senator who comes from a state where "none of the above" is one of the options on the ballot.

But the objection to autonomous complaints - well, I do understand that completely. Those who casually cause offense, outrage and harm do like to know if those "little people" are banding together to get themselves some even. The idea that a complaint might be based in some legitimate concern for, say, national security or the rule of law can be dismissed as fantastical.  Concerns about personal safety, or other forms of retaliation? Absurd! Paranoia!

Anyone making a complaint would OF COURSE be employed by or funded by some political action group. That's how things "really work." That is the assumption made when Republicans attack ACORN and the ACLU. Whatever these groups say, or even actually achieve, their only real agenda is to make make it difficult for Republicans to hold on to political power.

As patently absurd as that statement is, I do think those people best placed to influence the Republican party and the Social Conservative Base actually believe that politics is the primary motivation of critics, that their opponents see ethics, law, justice, civil rights, gun laws, health care, global warming, church and state issues, marriage rights and every other issue as simply sharp rocks to pelt the GOP - and that there could not possibly be any larger motivation - like, say, moral indignation, or a sincere appreciation for the economic, social and environmental impact of heedless social, environmental and foreign policy.

That is not because of a fundamental difference in political philosophy. It is because that sort of blindness is required if you are a corrupt sonofabitch belonging to a club of corrupt bastards, for in order to look in the mirror, you must embrace the faith-based doctrine that all persons of your walk and station are no better than you. 

When you offend a large enough number of people over a long enough period of time with the expressed attitude of "whatcha gonna do about it," - well, sooner or later, one of those people will be in a position to do you a grave injury. Meanwhile, even those you helped - well, they probably had to pay a great deal for the help that should have come as a matter of course - so when you lose your ability to deliver the goods there is no bond of loyalty or gratitude, no debt of honor or genuine friendship to presume upon.

Now, I have no idea whether Sen. Ensign's ethics amendment passed, but regardless, it is ironic to note that if we were to trace the source of the funding for the complaint against him - well, it would come from "Ensign, Inc." Literally. But it is reasonable to question the motives and the character of people bringing complaint, as a matter of significant interest that should be independent of the facts of the complaint.

It is a sad fact of human nature that most crimes are solved with the help of other criminals. 

To put up with Ensign, and people like Ensign - you have to take him as being the very model of a modern Statesman. You have to be able to dismiss every hint that he's less than intelligent, less than prudent, less than honest and certainly FAR less than what he seems. You have to somehow continue to accept him at face value and at his word. That makes you either very stupid indeed, or very willing to look the other way in return for some personal benefit. For the latter case, we have Douglas Hampton to illustrate the matter. The Ensigns and the Hamptons were said to be very close, over a very long period of time. It's difficult to credit the idea that people who are so close are truly unaware of the essential nature of their bedfellows. 

When you choose to be friends with someone like John Ensign - well, it's kinda like inviting a loaded skunk into your home. Sooner or later, the damn thing is going to go off. It's in the nature of skunks and narcissists to do that when every little thing fails to go their way.  A narcissist may be charming - may indeed charm your pants off. But if you permit that to happen more than once - it's a consensual relationship with a very predictable story arc leading from "ohgodohgod" to "owfuckOW!"

This story will no doubt be fodder for playwrights and novelists for generations to come. It is a story that in it's improbable degrees of arrogance, theatrical details and breathtaking contempt for the standards of moral behavior may be in all seriousness be compared to great tragedies such as Antigone, Oedipus Rex and Othello. 

But I must confess that there is a distinction between the real-life clusterfuck that is Ensign and a classical morality play. Mark Twain famously observed that the difference between truth and fiction was that fiction had to make sense.

It will take a great deal of literary hagiography to transform Ensign into a plausible vehicle for an actor of stature greater Will Ferrell or Pauly Shore. Othello was not merely a jealous prick. Oedipus was not just a fool who stepped on his own dick. The tragedy of Antigone is that all involved were genuinely mistaken in their attempts to honor Family and Gods.

Ensign - well, if there is a God that would be caught dead in the C-Street church - it's the one that appears every time in the mirror when we brush our teeth. But then, to people like Ensign - no higher power exists.

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