Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

When Bad Things Happen to Bad People

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.

Discussions - 15 Comments

Yup, "accomplice" is the word. Whatta couple! You knew E. Edwards' fondness for the likes of Amanda Marcotte spoke lowly of her, but THIS low? Democrats should be utterly furious, livid with anger about this bullet they dodged, this betrayal of trust. John Edwards--one of the most shameful contenders for the presidency since Aaron Burr.

Its ironic that John Edwards' career destroys itself in a sex scandal. He always struck me as a cheap copy of Bill Clinton. His career is only of note because broadcast journalists thought they saw a reincarnation of Bill Clinton. In fact thats what I kept hearing reporters say when reporting on Edwards events. That he was the best performer they had seen since Bill Clinton.

From one perspective Edwards is a nonentity. He won a Senate seat in a Democratic leaning year against a weak incumbent. He retired from the Senate rather than face a tough reelection. He ran for President twice and won a grand total of two states, both named Carolina. John Kerry's bad judgement put him on a national ticket in which he added nothing of note. Why is this guy such a big deal?

It was the similarities to Bill Clinton. Both were young, southern, white, pretty, articulate Democrats. Both were kind of oily but that was also part of their charm. Bill Clinton was also the only Democrat to win back to back presidential elections since FDR. Edwards seemed to fit the blueprint.

From a distance its easier to see the things that made Bill Clinton a more formidable character than Edwards. Clinton dominated a state's politics for over a decade. His wins were not flukes. Clinton adopted policies as they suited him, but Clinton also mastered policy. Not least, Clinton was a first class con man where Edwards was strictly second class.

I doubt Edwards will be remembered much, but to the extent that he has a legacy, I wonder if it will be as a Bill Clinton without the talents or accomplishments.

Given the circumstances of the last four years, the man's behavior is indicative of someone put together rather differently than an ordinary man. His wife's is just baffling.

Clinton is an inherently slippery character, so who can really say what he believed in, but his policies and platforms and votes show that he really was a New Democrat on wide swathe of issues when it counted. IMO, Pete, it wasn't just mastering sellable policy.

Obama has found a way to TALK like a New Democrat without having to be one; his record and even his current platform indicate staunch liberalism down the line. He isn't an inherently slippery character, though, even if his self-presentation is very tricky/effective.

As for Edwards, 'twas always a mystery to me why the Dems gave him the time of day, and somehow the "populist rhetoric + looks-like-the-Clinton-template" answer Pete's giving us doesn't quite suffice to clear that mystery up.

Carl, several points

1. Clinton was a staunch New Democrat on trade. Thats the only time I remember him as President taking on his party's left while the Democrats still controlled Congress. The first two years of the Clinton administration were pretty liberal across the board (NAFTA was the big exception). On the rest, he seems to have gone right as the political winds blew right. Not that I'm complaining mind you. He was a better President for it.

2. On Edwards, my personal experience with my Democrat leaning friends was that Edwards reminded them strongly of Clinton and they meant that as a good thing. My personal experience seems to accord with much of the journalistic commentary on Edwards. He seemed to tap into a kind of Clinton nostalgia for some people. Not alot though. He only won two states.

3. You are of course right so say that there is more to it.

Thanks for writing this about Elizabeth Edwards. You really hit the nail on the head. Accomplice. Just because someone is ill and/or might be dying, is no reason to give them a pass on bad behavior. Seems like they are a good match. Ugh.

I remember a David Brooks article in 2004 stating that Edwards was on to something (meaning that his "message" resonated with voters) with his talk of two Americas. Brooks indicated that he thought Edwards spoke to a real concern--which in its base populist message is not surprising. Unless Brooks (every liberals favorite conservative) was being deceptive in hopes of having Edwards become a disaster of a nomination for the Democrats, his judgment was not that far from many--especially leaders in the Democratic Party. Don't ask me why--I don't think Democrats thought he was the next Clinton unless they think like Gertrude Stein that the south is the south is the south--but people took this guy seriously.

In the end, Edwards' expensively bad haircuts and his incessant talk of being a millworker's son never worked. But stranger things have happened--and it almost worked. Remember, he made his bucks as an ambulance chaser.

I'm no fan of Ann Coulter, even if I sound like a ghost of her on this post. Nonetheless, I remember during the Dem primaries a couple of months ago, Coulter was on the Chris Matthews Hardball show after she had made some disparaging remark about the Edwardses. Lo and behold, Mrs. Edwards calls in on live TV to chastise Ann Coulter for her scurrilous comments and defend the good name of her husband. Coulter looked stunned (it was an amusing moment), and Matthews seemed to love putting her on the spot. At any rate, the Senator wasn't capable of defending himself--so he used his wife instead of David Bonior, Joe Trippi, et al. Thank God we have been spared such a man who needs/uses his wife to defend him in such ways. Unfortunately Elizabeth is still doing the same in this recent case.

She's no Tammy Wynette. Instead she's a Hillary Clinton. Stand by your man because your man will get you what you want.

Ann clearly has the last laugh here, wouldn't you say?

I agree completely about Elizabeth Edwards. They are still lying to the American public.

Well, being a class action lawsuit lawyer who somehow channeled unborn babies, who would have thought that Edwards today is proved to not only be a cad, but a liar?

Just because someone is ill and/or might be dying, is no reason to give them a pass on bad behavior

Just to clarify: she has stage iv (distantly metastatic) breast cancer. It is possible to contain that for a time, but that is all. Her life expectancy is south of two years.

Wow, World War is being instigated and we are tuning into a sex scandal for a guy not even on the ballot. If you want a high profile sex scandal then you should look into bohemian grove.

Well, since the hypocrisy card is being played here also, I should post this Blast from the Past here, too:

Apparently, the newer NLT bloggers aren't familiar with the Ponzi Declarations on Hypocrisy of 2003 and 2006. As it turns out, hypocrisy is no big deal! But I'm predicting that there will be some amendment to these declarations, something in the form of an IOOKYAR (It's Only OK If You Are Republican - or a right-wing conservative who gets caught in the hypocrisy) clause. Because obviously it just wouldn't do to apply the same standards consistently in these matters.

"It is a particularly disgusting habit of the human mind that propels it to dismiss virtue because of some perceived hypocrisy on the part of virtue’s defenders. What is worse is the childish delight some characters seem to take in the public unveiling of such hypocrisy." Julie Ponzi May, 2003

"But here we go down the whole 'hypocrisy' route again. Liberals love to salivate over the shortcomings of conservatives when conservatives don’t measure up to the high standards they set for themselves. But I’ll say it again . . . it’s better to aim high and fall hard than to aim low and reach your goals." - Julie Ponzi 11/4/06

I have to laugh - what was that again about "childish delight in the public unveiling of such hypocrisy"??

Craig . . . that column from all those years ago seems really to have stuck in your craw. I suggest you go have a drink and see if you can't do a better job of comprehending it after. Maybe light up a cigarette for good measure (or whatever it is that you're inclined to light up). The problem with the Edwards couple is not that they were hypocrites. That might have been forgivable and the calls for privacy might have been respected if that had been the simple case. But they were not just hypocritical. They were something more: cynical and calculating. They did not aim high, but low. They did not speak of the importance of virtue--they just claimed to possess it and tried to manipulate people on the basis of this big lie. An honest hypocrite doesn't brag on his own virtue when he knows he hasn't got it but, rather, he speaks with admiration of the virtue of others and the about possibility of virtue as a human triumph. An honest hypocrite pays respect to virtue with his shame and shame ought to keep people quiet about their personal affairs when they don't measure up. An honest hypocrite does not justify his vice in public as many celebrities today are inclined to do in our time of therapeutic pop culture. Most people who have been inclined to brag about their own virtues and then are exposed as less than virtuous aren't properly called hypocrites . . . they're just good old-fashioned liars and manipulators. They are not tragic figures but cartoons. But those come in all partisan flavors--unfortunately.

Andrew Young the admitted father of the John Edwards story: The arrests for worthless checks, DWI, burglary, criminal mischief, the federal tax lien

Julie, nothing stuck in my craw; I have a teflon craw!

I've felt no resentment about "that column from all those years ago" - or the comment you made of similar sentiment 2 years ago. I just remembered you said both things, and have noticed your slippery word games since. "Honest hypocrites" vs. "liars and manipulators" with their "perceived hypocrisies"?? Please. I don't think I've got enough booze on hand for me to comprehend this your particular way.

I think you were on to something though with your observation of the "childish delight in the public unveiling of such hypocrisy."

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