What works for Ensign ...

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., held a news conference this week to admit that he had an affair with a campaign worker. Ensign's marital infidelity is a matter between him and his wife. Ensign's hypocrisy — all too familiar to District of Columbia residents, for reasons we will come to in a moment — is a matter of legitimately broader interest.

Ensign, a leading conservative voice of his party with presidential aspirations, termed his adultery "absolutely the worst thing that I've ever done in my life." He didn't explain why he had decided to disclose the affair, but Politico and other media outlets reported that the husband of the woman involved asked him for a substantial amount of money. It's an assertion that warrants further explanation. Ensign said he remains committed to serving in the Senate, although he did resign a GOP leadership post.

We couldn't help but contrast Ensign's contrition with his bombast in calling on President Clinton to resign after the disclosure of Clinton's relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Or his aggressive, but unsuccessful, campaign to get then-Sen. Larry E. Craig, R-Idaho to resign following his arrest in an airport bathroom sex sting. But then, a certain relativism in world view is nothing new for the Nevada senator.

Ensign, you see, is the senator who attached to the D.C. voting rights bill a noxious amendment that would strip the District of Columbia of the right to write its own gun laws. He claimed his interest was in gun rights, not in blocking democracy for D.C. If that were so, he might have simply moved to disallow the district's gun-regulation legislation; he didn't bother to try. More to the point, he would never, in a million years, strip Nevada officials of their right to write local laws or in any other way visit upon them so extreme a sovereignty-stripping measure. But then, what works for Ensign at any given moment is the only thing that seems to matter.

&byline;Albany Deomcrat Herald

What do you think of the Legislature so far?

If you're like most people, you're not so thrilled with the work done by our lawmakers, who have been meeting since January.

Riley Research Associates of Portland reports that of 406 registered voters quizzed in a telephone survey around the first of June, 26 percent had a favorable opinion of the Legislature and 39 percent an unfavorable one. The other 35 percent had none.

In Southern Oregon, a mere 20 percent of the sample approved of the Legislature while 44 percent did not. And on the coast, the approval rating was only 14 percent while 48 percent had an unfavorable view.

For a state legislature to be held in low esteem is routine. State lawmakers have to deal with problems for which there are no easy solutions, such as lots of people wanting more from the state than they are willing to be taxed for.

Still, it is odd. Eight months ago most of these legislators, and all the members of the House, got elected to the offices they now hold. If they understood what most voters wanted, and if the majority had done it, you would expect the majority of people who paid attention to be pleased.

Without more research, nobody can say for sure why the Legislature is held in generally ill repute, But we can venture guesses.

The first is that new laws often impose restrictions and nobody likes to be told what to do. Also lots of people want some law passed or changed, and most of those requests go unfulfilled.

Second, and more significant, the news from Salem has been dominated by the majority Democrats' drive to increase fees and taxes, first on vehicles and gas and most recently on most businesses.

It takes employers willing to hire people to reduce joblessness, but if employers' costs go up without more sales, they are likely to try to reduce employment instead. People know this. So in a state with the second-highest jobless rate in the country, adding to the cost of business seems not just unfavorable. It sounds dumb.

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