(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., today reiterated his intention of completing his term of office despite having acknowledged earlier this year that he had an extramarital affair.
Ensign gave an exclusive interview to Alan Stock of KXNT News Radio 840 in Las Vegas.
In the one-hour interview, Ensign also said he followed Senate ethics rules and applicable laws in assisting his former senior aide Doug Hampton in getting another job. Ensign had his affair with Hampton’s wife, Cynthia Hampton, who was the treasurer of Ensign’s political action committee.
Ensign admitted the affair in June, saying it occurred in 2008. There have been some calls for Ensign to resign for his admission and because of concerns he can’t be effective because of the incident.
But Ensign, who is up for reelection in 2012, said he will serve out his term.
Ensign said he campaigned on conservative principles and fiscal responsibility, and that he has upheld those principles while in office. While constituents have expressed disappointment by his personal conduct, Ensign said they also want him to speak up more on the issues, particularly the health care bill under consideration in Congress.
Ensign also said a resignation would create a second Senate race in 2010, diluting Republican resources which could favor Democrats.
Ensign again expressed disappointment in himself for engaging in the affair.
“As I said back in June it is the worst thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “It was a huge mistake. It was a terrible thing and there is no way I can justify it. There was a lot of pain I caused to a lot of people.”
Ensign said he does not believe he is a distraction for the GOP because a number of candidates have asked him to be involved in their political campaigns in the 2010 election cycle, although he did not identify any by name.
“It isn’t about me, it is about the principles of freedom, it’s about the principles of fiscal responsibility, it is about the principles, really, that are enshrined in our Constitution that I believe in,” he said.
Asked if he regrets his involvement with the Promise Keepers because of his conduct, Ensign said no. Promise Keepers is a Christian men’s fellowship.
Ensign said that just because he has not met the standards of Promise Keepers does not mean the standards are wrong.
“I still believe in fidelity in marriage,” he said. “I violated that. My wife and I have worked out, since this time we‘re actually doing better than we‘ve ever done before.”
The key is to learn from your mistakes, Ensign said.
Most of the interview was on issues facing Congress, as requested in a poll of Stock’s listeners.
As to the Senate health care bill, Ensign said he will speak out during the debate and seek amendments to make it better, calling it “a terrible piece of legislation.” As it is, Ensign called it a “massive takeover of our healthcare system by the government.”
He rejected any claim by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that the plan will reduce medical costs, saying the government has never run a program more cheaply or efficiently than the private sector.
Ensign said he wants to focus on changes that actually will lower health care premiums, such as discounts for people who engage in healthy behavior.
He also said all options should be on the table, including the military option, to deal with Iran and its work on producing nuclear weapons.
“The world cannot afford to have Iran get nuclear weapons,” he said.
Criticized by one caller for voting for big government as a GOP, Ensign said he believes his vote for the first round of private sector bailouts last year was one of the worst votes he ever made. Ensign consistently voted against other bailout and stimulus measures that passed Congress.