Aug 09 2008

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John Edwards’ “True Lies”

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There’s something for everyone in John Edwards’ admission to an extra marital affair in 2006.

For partisans who could never square Edwards’ “Two America’s” rhetoric with his trial lawyer past and lavish lifestyle, the angry populist has finally been shown up as the contrite hypocrite.

While America had been warned in advance of what to expect with Bill Clinton with Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones in the news, Edwards cultivated a very different image.  He was a family values candidate where morality mattered as part of the “Two America’s” meme.  The affair makes the Edwards’ unseemly exploitation of Mrs. Edwards’ cancer — for fundraising and media attention —  all the more tasteless and feckless.  Hat tip here to the Edwards campaign staff, which by every account, had no idea.

And then there is the matter of fairness in media reporting. Let’s remember that The New York Times ran a front page story alleging a McCain affair based on nothing more than rumor and innuendo. NYT editors should be ashamed that the National Enquirer had a higher journalistic standard than the Grey Lady ever applied in its coverage of McCain.

And the Mainstream Media should be full of serious contemplation today. Would they have been so willing to look the other way if the story were on a Republican?

Edwards did his Party a favor by picking the perfect day to release the news.  A Friday in August, the first day of the Olympics with the Opening ceremony to occur only a few hours later.  If the statement that Edwards released is true, particularly with respect to paternity and alleged ‘hush money,’  then the story has no oxygen and should die off next week or so.

Further, while the news effectively ends Edwards’ public career, it does no measurable harm to the Democrats in general or Barack Obama in particular.  It is a sad personal drama that begs a question candidate Bush once asked of Bill Clinton in 2000. “So many talents, so much skill, so much promise, but to what end?”

The story is newsworthy, however, for this reason.  If a few thousand votes had gone differently in Iowa, it could be Edwards and not Obama vacationing in Hawaii this week as the presumptive nominee. Until just a few weeks ago, Edwards even managed to appear as a serious VP possibility.

The intense scrutiny of presidential candidates is searing and unrelenting. Edwards made the decision to make another run at the presidency, despite the affair. Only monumental hubris could allow Edwards to proceed with a  campaign with a secret so at odds with his message, holding as it did, the potential for his undoing and more importantly, that of his campaign and Party.

Edwards’ supporters are left to sort all this out, betrayed by a leader that preached populist authenticity.  For Democrats, a sigh of relief would not be inappropriate, even as their sympathies and those of Americans in general, go to the Edwards family, and particularly his wife, Elisabeth. The Party dodged a huge bullet on this one.

For voters at large, however, the message is simple as it is relevant: Character matters.

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