Infidelity scandals have proven remarkably effective against politicians from Spitzer to Craig to Edwards. Ensign and Sanford falling in same week due to electronic surveillance is very suspicious considering strategic political benefits of their removal
On June 17th, Senator John Ensign, GOP's fourth most powerful member, stepped down from Republican Policy Committee after publicly admitting to an affair. His lover's husband apparently sent a letter (text here ) to Fox News mentioning solid evidence of infidelity such as " facts, a paper trail, phone records and personal witnesses to testify to its truth". Just a week later, Mark Sanford, a very ideologically independent and popular republican governor from South Carolina, publicly admitted to an affair. Apparently South Carolina's largest newspaper, The State, somehow acquired records of Sanford's email communication with his lover in Argentina.
Two powerful regional and genuinely popular Republican politicians, each with potential power to challenge Obama in 2012 (and frustrate the president's policies throughout his term), both had their public personas ruined within the same week because of electronic surveillance. Both decided to preemptively step forward with admissions rather than undergo the evidence circulating even more widely in the media.
They also shared very similar records of fighting on behalf of private oligarchs against oligarchs who wanted to expand the use of state structures as their tools. For example, senator Ensign opposed the auto bailout and restructuring and fought against the new powerful eminent domain powers granted to the government by Kelo vs. New London Supreme Court case (to take from one private entity and give to another). He was given high ranks for his efforts by the anti-government corporate propaganda tank Citizens Against
Sanford was the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. As such, he was well positioned (besides being already ideologically/psychologically predisposed) to help fellow regional executives craft common modes of functioning to resist the federal government. His theatrics and unpredictability stood to give endless headaches for the federal political center during its efforts to manage the continuing depression. Considering that other powerful governors (like Rick Perry) were also engaged in grandstanding about reaffirming state autonomy, an ideologue as the governors' leader was a huge risk.
This article is not necessarily suggesting that the federal government was involved in surveillance and then strategic exposure of damaging evidence to eliminate political rivals. However, considering the stature and background of the fallen politicians, the federal government stood the most to benefit from their removal and it is very suspicious. We've already seen the executive go after enemies under Richard Nixon and George Bush (Eliot Spitzer as investigator against Wall Street corruption seems to be the most stark example). The shoe is on the foot as Obama inherited Bush's tools.
cyber security office within the white house last month. The first director of this new center (designed to better coordinate all intelligence departments) actually resigned in protest after just a month of working there. He cited as his reason that the notoriously untransparent NSA is taking de facto control over the new center as well as taking a large chunk of funding from the civilian department of Homeland Security.
Russel Tice, a former NSA employee, recently revealed how department of Homeland Security and the department of defense jointly managed domestic spying operations on political opponents. If his story is true, it means the military and the civilian government were actively collaborating on American soil on behalf of the federal government. If his story is not true (considering he was fired from the NSA and might have a grudge) then the recent developments point to such collaboration beginning out in the open.
The new cyber security office in the white house points to growing power of department of defense under Robert Gates. Robert Gates now has increasing structural ability to acquire and manipulate domestic information formerly under the civilian management of Department of Homeland Security and policing structures like the FBI. The military now has publically visible and accepted foot in the door towards overseeing civilian information networks if it wants to. It is very possible that the publically stated concerns of increasing cyber attacks from China and Russia are the real cause of this development (Gates wrote his Georgetown PhD thesis on Soviet government's view on evolution of Chinese society). At the same time, military getting involved in civilian affairs rather than the other way around is disturbing news since that usually occurs in societies that are facing looming failure. It would be ironic (with recent events in Iran as background) if United States was moving away from decentralized ideological oligarchy towards more pragmatic centralized oligarchy backed by intelligence and military departments.
Once again, it is possible some of the politicians fell due to private investigators or even intraparty sabotage. It is fun to joke about all Republicans being repressed perverts and hypocrites but after a while coincidences and amusing schadenfreude stories loose their luster and become rather unnerving. We'll see if anything embarrassing continues to happen to strategically key conservatives in the months to come.