Morals, war, birthers, and debt

    A brief quartet:John Ensign, the infamous family-values fraud, announced late yesterday that he will resign his Nevada Senate seat on May 3 in order to spare his family further personal pain. Translation: The only way he can thwart the Senate ethics investigators who are hot on his trail is by quitting his job, so that’s what he’s doing.As you may recall, Ensign, who was once touted as a ’12 Republican presidential prospect, is the so-called religious conservative (“marriage is an extremely important institutional in this country”) who bedded the wife of his top aide, then tried to placate the cuckold by giving him 96 grand in hush money. (Ensign’s casino mogul father picked up the tab.) A Senate probe led by special prosecutors has spent the past 18 months sifting the evidence that suggests a far more serious cover-up: Ensign allegedly bought the aide’s silence by getting various Nevada firms to hire the guy as a lobbyist – and, in return, using his Senate job to further the firms’ financial interests.Ensign said yesterday, “I will not continue to subject my family…to any further rounds of investigation, depositions, drawn out proceedings, or especially public hearings.” He just doesn’t want the truth to come out for everybody to see. People already know that he violated his professed morals; more importantly, they have a right to know the extent to which he compromised his office, and whether his actions warrant criminal charges. But Ensign, right to the bitter end, is trying to avoid accountability, behaving in ways that are inimical to the public interest.Since he’s free on May 3, he should probably join the presidential race anyway. Given Republicans’ disenchantment with the current candidate roster, he probably wouldn’t make it any worse. My dream scenario would be a debate in which Ensign, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump are asked to expound on heterosexual marriage as a sacred moral institution.——-President Obama has decided to send armed drones into Libya. Pentagon chief Robert Gates made the announcement yesterday; the drones will target Gadhafi’s fighters. Gates said that the United States is “trying to provide enough space” for the rebels to succeed. What this really means is that the civil strife isn’t going well, and that NATO needs more American muscle in order to stave off a protracted stalemate.None of this sounds good. “Trying to provide enough space” strikes me as a synonym for “we’ll keep helping, but this thing could go on for quite awhile.” Americans are already restive; two polls this week reported plurality disapproval for Obama’s handing of the war. (Although officialdom refuses to call it a war.) And Gates, who’s soon slated to leave his job, clearly signaled yesterday that we’ve got a mess in the making. When asked whether he’s concerned about a stalemate, he replied: “Well, the worry will be my successor’s.”Translation: “So long, suckers.”——-Most pathetic poll statistic of the week: According to the latest New York Times-CBS News survey, only 33 percent of Republicans nationwide believe that Obama was born in America. Meanwhile, leaving aside Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of a state birther bill, roughly a dozen other state legislatures are readying similar measures. (“it’s not a birther bill,” an Oklahoma Republican lawmaker reportedly insists. “It’s a common-sense measure.”)But I’m wondering: How come Republicans aren’t upset about Mitt Romney? He’s been running for president on and off since 2006, but has yet to produce any form of birth certificate.Seriously, he hasn’t. The Boston Globe asked the Romney campaign about this years ago. An aide emailed back, “He was born in Detroit. City Hall should have it.” But The Globe had no luck at City Hall – because birth records are kept private in Michigan, and only a family member or legal guardian or legal representative is empowered to obtain a copy. Romney has never released even a copy. What’s he trying to hide? And isn’t Canada, a foreign country, only a few miles away? How do we know he wasn’t born in Canada? And didn’t Romney, as a young adult, spend a suspiciously large amount of time in…gasp…France?One might think that the largely conservative denizens of battyland, given their vigilance on this birther issue, would be hammering Romney about this. Yet they are not. And we know why not:1. Romney is a Republican.2. Romney has a red-blooded American name.3. Romney is white.——-How embarrassing: Obama was against raising the debt ceiling before he was for it. He’s currently urging Capitol Hill Republicans to vote Yes on raising the debt ceiling this spring, so that America can keep paying its bills. This should be a slam-dunk vote, given the dire financial consequences of voting No; indeed, most of the Republican-friendly business lobbyists are urging the GOP lawmakers to vote Yes. But Obama voted No on a bill to raise the debt ceiling, back when he was a senator in 2006. The other day, in an ABC News interview, he had to distance himself from his former self:”I think that it’s important to understand the vantage point of a senator versus the vantage point of a…president. When you’re a senator, traditionally what’s happened is this is always a lousy vote. Nobody likes to be tagged as having increased the debt limit for the United States by a trillion dollars….As president, you start realizing, ‘You know what? We can’t play around with this stuff. This is the full faith in credit of the United States.’ And so that was just an example of a new senator, you know, making what is a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for the country. And I’m the first one to acknowledge it.”Translation: “Everybody on Capitol Hill should do what I say now, not what I did then.”In the annals of salesmanship, there have been smoother pitches.

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