The morning-after consensus is that John Edwards’ political career is over. Few NLT readers are shattered. As for Elizabeth Edwards, however, her status as “one of the more sympathetic figures on the national stage” may be, if anything, enhanced by the interview her husband gave ABC. It shouldn’t be. Being married to a cheating husband is a bad thing, and having terminal cancer is a really bad thing, but neither precludes the possibility or erases the considerable evidence that she, too, is a hyper-ambitious, lying hypocrite.
David Bonior, the campaign manager for John Edwards’ 2008 presidential run, said yesterday, “Thousands of friends of the senator’s and his supporters have put their faith and confidence in him and he’s let [them] down. They’ve been betrayed by his action.” The biggest reason the respectable press gave for treating the Edwards adultery as a non-story for as long as possible was the need to protect the brave and beleaguered Mrs. Edwards from further indignities.
The reality, however, is that as far as the Rielle Hunter story affected the John Edwards presidential campaign, Elizabeth Edwards was not a victim but an accomplice. In separate statements yesterday, both John and Elizabeth say he confessed his affair to her in 2006. That means they both spent the entirety of 2007, when he was running for president, lying about it. The Edwards-for-president volunteers, donors and staffers who were betrayed by him were betrayed by her, too.
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the inescapable conclusion is that Elizabeth Edwards behaved far less honorably than Hillary Clinton did in similar circumstances. In the famous “60 Minutes” interview Bill and Hillary gave together in 1992, in the aftermath of the Jennifer Flowers story, they offered a carefully phrased discussion of “problems” in their marriage, making clear that they would be going no further in the direction of nationally televised marital counseling. Then Hillary said, “And you know, if that’s not enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him.”
By contrast, “both John and Elizabeth Edwards cynically used their marriage as a means to help John Edwards win an election,” according to Lee Stranahan, an embittered Edwards fan. “They made a conscious decision to make their relationship a focus throughout the campaign. . . . Then when the rumors first surfaced, they made the worst decision of all; they decided to lie about it and to keep lying about it for months.”
It’s beyond pathetic that Sen. and Mrs. Edwards were so desperate to join the ultra-exclusive POTUS/FLOTUS club. Elizabeth Edwards now says that that she wanted their private matter to stay private because “as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well.” Running for president, however, is an unorthodox way to shun the limelight. Reasonable people can disagree about how much of a presidential candidate’s private life is of legitimate interest to voters and journalists. The reality our age, however, is that a couple cannot spend 16 months telling everyone who’ll listen that they can get an idea of what a good president he would be by reflecting on his exceptional virtues as husband and father, and then insist that the interior of their marriage is nobody’s damn business.
Even now, after the central part of their elaborate and desperate fabrication has been demolished, and their dreams of political glory smashed, Mrs. Edwards believes she can still score integrity points by lashing out at the “voyeurism” and “string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication.” As Stranahan notes, however, “both John and Elizabeth Edward are calling the people who caught him the liars.” A supermarket tabloid turned out to have much smaller credibility problems than a presidential candidate and his wife. Exhibitionists forfeit the right to complain about voyeurs.