Monday, August 18, 2008

John Edwards: Dickhead
I don't think there's all that much to say about the John Edwards adultery scandal that hasn't already been said. The guy showed sufficient arrogance, naivete and flat-out bad judgment in his evident belief that he could run for the presidency and never have this come out that we can all be thankful he'll never sit across the table from world leaders as an equal, and it's now virtually certain that he won't even have the cabinet-level job or high-profile position ("poverty czar") in an Obama or other future Democratic administration that, before the story broke, he might reasonably have expected.

But in addition to his foolishness and dishonesty, we now are informed that he begged a home-state newspaper, the Charlotte News & Observer, to sit on the story during the campaign last year out of regard for his cancer-stricken wife:

About 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11, former Sen. Edwards reached me on my office phone.

Earlier that day, while campaigning in South Carolina, Edwards denied a report in The National Enquirer that he had an affair with an unnamed woman who once worked in his campaign.
By the time Edwards called, we had decided not to publish the story in the Friday paper. But Edwards didn't know that. I wanted to hear what he had to say. We still could have reversed our decision.

Edwards told me that the allegations were not true.

He said The N&O was the paper that arrived on his doorstep every day, the one read by friends of him and his wife, Elizabeth.

He said he'd never called before to complain or state his case. Given Elizabeth's health -- she has cancer -- he said it was especially important to him that the story not run in The N&O.

When the story broke earlier this month, Edwards said--and Elizabeth Edwards confirmed, on Daily Kos--that she had known about the affair long before the time frame in which this conversation took place. So not only did he do this thing, cheating on his wife, and then have the brass to think he could get away with it--get elected president, in fact--but when it first looked like the story might see the light of day, he used his wife's illness in an emotional appeal to keep things quiet.

I can understand (not condone) adultery. There isn't a person alive, so far as I'm aware, who's utterly impervious either to physical lust or ego gratification, one of the sweetest forms of which is someone wanting to rub up against you nekkid. And while I think marriage vows are to be taken seriously, that adultery isn't just "another decision," we're all human and we're all fallible. And I think I can even understand, at least in the abstract, how Edwards might have reached the conclusion that his agenda of economic justice and social inclusion was so important that it was worth the effort to conceal his cheating was justified. (It was still incredibly stupid. But that didn't stop Bill Clinton, the pol to whom Edwards was always compared during his rise through 2004.)

What I can't fathom is how, doing all those things, he could then appeal on the basis of the woman he betrayed--not only his wife but his most effective champion and political surrogate, a political powerhouse in her own right whose illness gave undeniable emotional potency to his second run--to protect his lies. Anyone who could make such a choice lacks the character to handle the unimaginable moral burdens of the presidency. As sympathetic as I sometimes was to Edwards' policy views and his critique of our politics, I'm glad and frankly relieved that he's irrevocably gone from the stage.


Anonymous said...

I’ve often heard various folks comment on how wonderfully varied, complex and diverse the English language is, effortlessly welcoming foreign words and phrases ‘into the fold’. The depth of our language is sometimes described as a ‘bottomless reservoir’ of nuance.

I agreed with that sentiment, but no longer, thanks to John Edwards. I’ve been struggling the last two weeks for words to describe exactly how much of a douchebag he really is. And sadly, for the first time I find my native tongue wanting. The adjectives simply aren’t ‘there’ to accurately describe how much of a manipulative, calculating, reprehensible, scumbag, liar, phony, narcissistic, empty-suit, jackass he really is.

See that? My best effort to ‘capture’ the fundamental essence of John Edwards rings completely hollow, like calling the Grand Canyon a ‘really big ravine’. I would otherwise be embarrassed by my linguistic impotence, but I really don’t think it’s my fault. He has simply re-defined the boundaries of douche-baggery, shattering the power of words to define him. It is, in wierd sort of way, a mark of greatness. A legacy, if you will.

Brian said...

While I believe that monogamy flies in the face of a million years of evolution and the need to screw every hole in sight, we as civilized humans can control our urges a bit better than our simian ancestors. I personally have nothing to risk but my children's opinion of me and my marriage but I still don't cheat on my wife for a myriad of reasons. It's kind of amazing how politicians think that they can get away with it. It's not like the days of Kennedy where the press keeps quiet about such indiscretions. Plus it's not the actual adultery that bothers me as many a good politician have dipped their pen in different inkwells. it's the audacity and egotism that you mention that disturbs me the most.

Feral said...

Great men have great egos. Men who think they’re great, have even greater egos.
Great egos lead to a sense of entitlement and a somewhat decreased ability to censor appetites, since all is deserved by the great man. Now, all this might lead to indiscretions, but I think the clincher is the inherent puritan tendencies in American society, which leads to all the lying and scumbaggery. A lot of marriages experience infidelity, and if American society actually treated it as a private matter, politicians wouldn’t feel the need or go to great lengths to lie about it. Look at Sarkozy, or even better, Berlusconi (the man has orgies, for christsakes). Sure they avoid or deny at times, but they don’t make up great stories or have their people throw themselves under the bus for them. If you’re running for president, the people have a right to stick their noses in your life, but you can still take the high road and say “the facts are this; the reasons are private”, and have people respect that.

Paterson sorta achieved that, it seems. He did have the advantage of being the second Governor of New York to confess to adultery in the same week, though. People probably didn’t wanna linger too much on it.

David said...

I think the "it's not the crime, it's the coverup" notion factors in here. Edwards cheating is one thing; as I said, what I can't get past is the sheer rottenness of how he tried to cover it up. (Maybe this goes for Spitzer too, at least vis-a-vis Paterson.) Even Clinton, with his "I did not have sex..." evasion, didn't throw Hillary in the line of fire. (Which isn't to say that he might not have done so, were she more sympathetic...)

dr. catloaf said...

Not to make excuses for the guy, but returning for a moment to the American puritanism: is there even the remotest chance that a candidate running third and trying to get traction could survive disclosure of an extramarital affair, even if it had happened years earlier and his wife stood by him?

Now what if that wife happens to be struggling with cancer today? And the chain of events that hamstrung the last Democratic presidency and exiled the party from power were sparked by an extramarital affair? And the betrayed spouse in that event happens to be running against this candidate?

I'm not saying that what Edwards did was noble, but he would've been toast the moment this hit the newsstands.

David said...

Sure. But I have trouble seeing how he'd be any less toasty in the end if, say, he'd won Iowa (not at all out of the range of possibility at the time), taken the momentum that went to Obama and won the nomination. It's just that the entire Democratic Party would be bearing the consequences of it, with either a mortally wounded nominee or the total zoo of an open convention contested by primary-season losers.

I'm not saying his decision was irrational within the context, at least if you accept the initial irrational decision to run with this hanging out there in the first place. I'm saying it was slimy. If you're arguing that we're too puritanical about the private lives of public figures, I'll buy that. But as I said, my real issue isn't with the extracurricular screwing, but with the odious nature of the cover-up.

Dominic said...

Dominic likes getting nekkid.