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.