The Las Vegas Sun has taken a deep-dive look into the reputation that Sen. John Ensign enjoys among those who know him — and come back with some pretty damning testimony.
Reports the paper:
In interviews with the Las Vegas Sun, more than a dozen friends, associates and Republican allies, some of whom have known Ensign for years, describe him as a politician who has grown narcissistic and reckless — a detached, self-righteous figure with almost no regard for those who helped send him to Washington or keep him there.
It’s not exactly news, of course, that the Nevada Republican is few people’s idea of a stand-up guy. This is a man who slept with his best friend’s wife, then had his parents pay almost $100,000 to his former buddy to help keep it quiet. The aftermath of the affair is now the subject of a federal criminal probe into whether Ensign violated lobbying rules in trying to get a lobbying job, and clients, for the one-time friend, Doug Hampton.
But the Sun helps flesh out the picture. It reports: “Even in the world of politics, where the mirror is everyone’s favorite accessory, examples of Ensign’s selfishness and arrogance are legion.” The quotes from associates pile up:
• Steve Wark, a Nevada Republican operative: “It was always, for the most part, about John Ensign. That is fairly unusual — that lack of involvement and interest in other people’s careers, or in party-building.”
• One Republican insider: “Narcissism would be the best word.”
• A GOP operative who saw Ensign — the son of a wealthy casino magnate — working as a casino manager: “He was an ass to his employees, barking orders, acting like a peacock.”
• Chuck Muth, a former Nevada GOP executive director and prominent figure in the state party, on volunteering at an Ensign fundraiser: “He treated us like hired help.”
• Another Nevada Republican on a meeting with Ensign: “Two minutes in, Ensign is looking at his watch. Five minutes in, he’s gone. Staff says they’ll get back to me. Never did.”
• And perhaps most worryingly, a GOP operative: “No one perjures himself for John Ensign.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the quotes is the willingness of the sources to give them — even, in some cases, on the record. That suggests people are beginning to conclude that even if Ensign escapes the investigation without being indicted, he’s now so diminished that there won’t be much price to be paid for publicly slamming him.
The Sun also reports that in better times, the Ensigns, the Hamptons, and the Slankers — Mike and Lindsey, former Ensign aides who the senator later persuaded to hire Hampton temporarily — spent so much time together that “there were ‘wife-swapping’ jokes, although no one suspected the worst.”