RNC chairman Michael Steele and Texas senator John Cornyn may have hoped to start a tidal wave of calls for Harry Reid to step down as majority leader in the wake of LightSkinnedNegroGate, but many of their Republican peers have responded with a collective “meh.” Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “stubbornly refused” to join in, but two of the earliest Republican senators to come to Reid’s defense were Senator John Ensign of Nevada and Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and it’s not really hard to see why.
Ensign, who himself rejected calls to resign after admitting to an affair, perhaps predictably made the case for forgiveness. “When you make those comments [or sleep with the wife of one of your aides], as long as you take responsibility for your comments [and affairs] and apologize for them, I think people should accept that,” he told Nevada radio. And Coburn, who facilitated the hush money that Ensign paid to his mistress and her cheated husband, backed Reid as well yesterday, saying, “There is not anybody in Washington who has not said something [or done something, like helping someone keep their affair quiet] that could be judged inappropriate and wrong.” And that’s the heart of it, really. If senators should be punished for absurdly tactless but ultimately true and non-malicious private statements, then there’s certainly a whole slew of worse things they should be punished for, too. That’s a dangerous precedent to set considering the ethical and moral depravity of much of Congress.