Friday, August 15, 2008

John Edwards

Once again, the pundits chew over the question of the relevance of a politician's private life to his public career. I am not a prude, nor do I think that I am naive about human beings' capacity for duplicity. But I do think, in this case at least, John Edwards's behavior in his private life does have something to say to us about his politics.

When this year's Democratic presidential contest was first taking shape, Edwards positioned himself to appeal to people like me: left-liberals concerned about economic inequality and the plight of the poor. Despite the attractiveness of his message, I was skeptical of Edwards's candidacy, primarily because it didn't jibe with his record as a senator and vice-presidential candidate, where he had positioned himself as Southern moderate. However, the issue which ultimately convinced me not to support Edwards was his decision to continue his campaign in the face of his wife Elizabeth's diagnosis with terminal metastatic breast cancer.

My decision was not based, however, on a belief that Edwards was selfish or evil; rather it derived from my history as the spouse of woman who died of breast cancer. Based on my own experience, I thought that John Edwards needed to be with his wife and children during the next few years whether the Edwardses knew it or not. In other words, I opposed John Edwards's candidacy for his own good and that of his family.

In light of the latest revelations (and the fact that I believe that Edwards has still not come completely clean), I see John and Elizabeth in a different light. John's cheating on his cancer patient wife is reprehensible, no matter what his role in life. But the fact that he and, apparently, Elizabeth were willing to subject their children, their party, and their country to the risk that his affair with Rielle Hunter would become public during his presidential campaign strikes me as evidence of a self-centered ambition seldom seen in American politics. It's not really surprising that a bigtime plaintiff's lawyer would be comfortable risking other people's welfare to advance his own interests, but it is still sort of shocking to me that he would risk putting a Republican in the White House to satisfy his own desires. I now see John and Elizabeth as hillbilly MacBeths: as ambitious as the Clintons, but not as principled!


kateg said...

Im not getting how the Clintons are any better or different, given that they obviously had to know during thier first run that Bill was a womanizing, sexually harassing asshat.

Obviously, they were slightly better at damage control. and running for office.

Texan By Chance said...

Well, the Clintons didn't have the Clintons as an example of how seriously a candidate's (or president's) womanizing could screw things up. 20 years ago one could more seriously contend that a politician's private life was irrelevant. Also, the Clintons, were actually interested in politics and policy from the beginning. Edwards made his millions before turning to politcs, evidence, I think, that politics was just anothe rway of stroking his own ego.

Texan By Chance said...

Also, Hillary didn't have a terminal illness.

David said...

I like "hillbilly McBeths" :)
I can only hope that there is a bright young trial attorney out there (from the underprivileged background of course) that is ready to lead a class-action suit against Edwards for defrauding his supporters have millions of dollars in contributions by running under the false pretenses of being a viable presidential candidate. He/she can help Rieley Hunter and that baby clean up too!