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August 08, 2008

Comments

Yeah. -- I didn't write about this before because I don't trust the Enquirer or Drudge, but I was hoping it wasn't true, mostly for Elizabeth Edwards' sake. My thoughts are with her. Having your husband cheat on you when you have cancer is bad enough; having it become a big public deal would be one of the few things that could make it worse.

I thought it was impossible for someone running for President to be that monumentally stupid.

Hart, Gary.
Clinton, Bill.

Also: Bush, George W. Tho' his is a different kind of monumental stupidity.

Of course, all the wingnuts are going to use this as an excuse to scream "liberal bias" anytime the non-tabloid press refuses to cover The Enquirer's scoop that Obama is really a reptilian alien here to steal our water and use humanity for food.

What kills me is...didn't he learn from Bill Clinton's debacle? If you would admit it up front when questioned by a 'legitimate' news organization, it sometimes can go away. If it is 'pattern cheating' like Clinton, it won't go away but....

What I find horrific is that the National Enquirer is almost always right about the basics of what they write...shameful that the legit news organizations don't get it first.

It is monumentally stupid, but some Democrats apparently get the idea that because the media ignore infidelity by Republicans they'll ignore it for Democrats as well.

Well, the Enquirer pictures still look faked -- although I'd be open to an explanation of how they managed to capture Edwards holding a baby with those oh-so-distinctive curtains in the background. (Surely if they were shooting through the door that for some reason he'd decided to leave open, you'd think they wouldn't need the Photoshop filter telephoto lens.)

That said, the fact that Edwards -- a somewhat capable lawyer by all accounts -- didn't immediately sue the Enquirer for libel spoke volumes. It's been clear to me since they responded that the basic story was true, even if the pictures are fake.

I don't think you need to apologize for saying that if Kaus were wrong, he should be fired. But then I don't think you would need to apologize for walking up to Kaus and punching him in the nose.

I thought it was impossible for someone running for President to be that monumentally stupid.

After Bill Clinton, Bob Livingston, David Vitter, Eliot Spitzer, Henry Hyde, etc, etc, etc, I would NEVER underestimate the capacity of a politician to be monumentally stupid. Never ever.

So Edwards is an arrogant, selfish, weak schmuck just like all the rest. Elizabeth Edwards definitely deserves better.

The more I think about this, the angrier I get. About his callousness to his family, about the possibility that he still hasn't come clean, about his willingness to run for President knowing this, even about much more minor things like his saying that he didn't love Rielle, or whatever her name was. I mean: was that actually necessary?

Grrrrr.

Despite this affair -- just as w/ the Clintons -- it looks like the Edwards have a strong marriage.

Elizabeth Edwards seems to have reconciled w/ this issue more so than a snooping public.

Leave them alone.

scumbag.

In another thread OCSteve wrote:

Like I said - at least ya'll didn't nominate him! I’d have to say though that it was extremely irresponsible of him to even run with that lurking in his closet.

Points to OCSteve for being right on this one, and I agree that it was not a very good idea for John Edwards to run, unless he never really expected to win and was primarily concerned with pushing a set of issues and policies into the limelight that the other candidates were neglecting. I don’t feel comfortable with attributing that much nobility of purpose to him without some fairly strong evidence for it.

A follow-up question:

Is this affair better, worse, or about the same as how McCain treated his 1st wife? I realize that the latter is not a campaign issue because it was in the more distant past, but I'm just wondering if we have a single standard for these things or does it vary too much with context to make comparisons?

It does seem to me like there may be some differences between the parties with regard to how prominent leaders treat their spouses. Democrats (Hart, Clinton, now Edwards) are more likely to cheat behind the scenes while keeping their marriage together, whereas Republicans are more open about dumping the old spouse and “upgrading” to a newer and younger model (Gingrich, McCain), or more favorably, being serially monogamous (Reagan). Why is that? Is there a pattern to this, or is it just a series of coincidences in a small batch of random data?


It was unspeakably stupid and irresponsible for Edwards to have run knowing that this little land mine could go off at any point. This level of irresponsibility is borderline criminal.

At the same time, I agree with bedtimeforbonzo. Media circuses surrounding Democratic politician affairs are just sick. Even adulterers should get some modicum of privacy.

and by "scumbag" i mean: the guy not only cheated on his wife (his sick wife, which puts him into Gingrich territory); he had the arrogance to actually try to get the nomination knowing this stuff was hanging out there waiting to be discovered.

if he was the nominee, his campaign, and by extension, the prospects of the entire Democratic party, would probably be in heaps-o-trouble right now.

Someday, hopefully, a political candidate's consensual sexual relationships will be regarded as no one's business but their own (unless they themselves have made a political point of denouncing other people's sexual relationships, in which case, serve 'em right).

And when that day happens, we won't be treated to the spectacle either of mobs screaming about the "news" that sometimes married people are unfaithful to their spouse, or mobs screaming that omg-a-politician-lied-about-sex, or politicians, trying to avoid the mob, telling lies about sex.

Of course he said he hadn't had an affair with her. The only person whose business it was to know he had had an affair with her, he'd already told. The proper answer would have been "None of your business!" but everyone in their right minds knows that if Edwards had had an affair with another woman, unless and until there was evidence, of course he'd lie. When people ask questions to which the proper answer is "none of your business", no one should feel any shame at lying to them.

J --

Could not have said it better.

Yes, J, very well said.

It was unspeakably stupid and irresponsible for Edwards to have run knowing that this little land mine could go off at any point. This level of irresponsibility is borderline criminal.

Agree.

I supported Edwards and am very unhappy. Had he won the nomination we would be looking at a disaster in November.

As someone who has never liked Edwards and has always thought he was a fake and a fraud, I am not surprised at all. Having said all that, I really don't care, and as I have mentioned before elsewhere, this just seems so mundane. No dildo, no wetsuit, not teen-age pages, etc.

Not sure how to handle this blogwise- if I write about this it will feel like piling on since I never cared for him, but if I don't mention it I will be accused by right-wingers of covering up or failing to recognize a guy I don't like sucks. Fortunately, my POS website is down once again.

Any sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards I might have felt is for the moment tempered by the fact that she, too, was willing to risk having this all come out after Edwards won the Democratic nomination, which -- given the reality of our politics and media -- would have meant a likely, if not certain, Republican win.

The Edwardses marriage is their own business. But neither of them gets a pass for lying about a candidacy-killing issue and risking taking the rest of the country down with them.

No need to apologize for not believing Kaus or the Enquirer. In terms of evidence, they had nothing.

Anonymous quotes, speculation, and pictures of a Edwards-shaped blur holding a baby-shaped blur.

Meanwhile, the baby in question had a father that claimed paternity despite being married to someone else.

Only someone heavily biased would believe the evidence at that point was on the "This story is true" side.

It wasn't. You had innuendo and blurry photographs from a magazine with a reputation for baseless rumor-mongering, a 'blogger' with a personal axe to grind, claiming Edwards not only HAD the affair, but fathered a child versus a woman who claimed another (married) man was the father -- a man who supported that claim.

Strip that of names, lay aside politics, and who would you believe?

Not the Enquirer, that's for sure. So they were right (about the affair, at least) -- stopped clocks and all that.

Edwards made a point of telling Woodruff that his wife's cancer was in remission when he began the affair with Hunter.

Edwards: Oh, Elizabeth, such wonderful news that your cancer is in remission.

Edwards[to self]: cause now it's party time!

I'm for politicians saying "None of your business" and sticking to that, rather than lying.

Quite the gamble to run with this as a potential timebomb in the background. But after the $400 haircut ambush and the media's unanimous flogging of that and the big house, it must have been clear he'd be given no chance. Was to me.

Other than the not-very-close shave on the nomination, it's not my business.

...if he was the nominee, his campaign, and by extension, the prospects of the entire Democratic party, would probably be in heaps-o-trouble right now.

And at the risk of sounding hyperpartisan, I would extend that to the prospects for the American people. The modern day Republican politicians are that corrupt/misguided/incompetent.

When people ask questions to which the proper answer is "none of your business", no one should feel any shame at lying to them.

Totally agree. Apart from him running for the nomination while doing this (and with his wife battling cancer and all), I could care less, I don't really mind the "lie" and don't thing affairs should matter generally speaking.

Of course, all the wingnuts are going to use this as an excuse to scream "liberal bias"…

I’ll bite.

McCain and Vicki Iseman: innuendo, anonymous sources, and nothing more than a “concern over the relationship” was good enough for the front page of the NYT.

Edwards and Rielle Hunter: Caught in the act with multiple eyewitnesses and possibly photos – total media blackout, right down to the LAT telling their bloggers not to even discuss it.

Now break the story on a Friday afternoon with the Olympics going on. Obama heads out on vacation – old news when he gets back.

How was that? ;)


Points to OCSteve for being right on this one.

Not really. I mean it was pretty obvious that there was something there. It was really a question of who was going to break the media blockade and when. I mean I wasn’t going out on any limb making any bold predictions or anything.


Jes: I agree totally. Sorry if that is distressing to you. ;)

OCSteve, you might be able to use that to show that the New York Times is liberal, but considering the universal slamming from every other part of the media that the Times received for running the story, I don't think it shows much more.

How was that? ;)

You left out the part about them using The Enquirer as a source. If they want to do their own original reporting, fine. And "concern over the relationship" came from McCain's own campaign staffers, no?

Now break the story on a Friday afternoon with the Olympics going on. Obama heads out on vacation – old news when he gets back.

Was Edwards offering to go on camera and admit this before today?

I agree with Jes that a politician should still retain a certain degree of privacy with regards to their private life (duh). I do think, though, that a public figure forfeits some of that, and those running for president more than most. Where should we draw the line? I can't say.

What I can say is that it's crazy of John Edwards to have run for president with this hanging over him. I don't think he should ever be able to run for office again just because of his sheer recklessness.

Not sure how to handle this blogwise

John,

If WordPress ever comes back from internet purgatory, please do post on it. IIRC a lot of your commentariat are former Edwards supporters (including the IQ enhanced one), so the reactions should be entertaining.

Nell: I'm for politicians saying "None of your business" and sticking to that, rather than lying.

So would I be, if we lived in a world where everyone regarded consensual sexual relationships between adults as exclusively the business of the adults concerned.

OCSteve: Jes: I agree totally. Sorry if that is distressing to you. ;)

It's Friday night, I've had a glass of red wine and a rather nice bowl of chilli. I'll live.

Edwards and Rielle Hunter: Caught in the act with multiple eyewitnesses and possibly photos – total media blackout, right down to the LAT telling their bloggers not to even discuss it.

Caught in the act where? By "anonymous sources" from the Enquirer, who released the worlds blurriest picture as "proof"? A picture of a man-shaped blur holding a baby-shaped blur? That's hardly "caught in the act" of anything!

And you're ignoring the fact that the baby in question HAS a man claiming paternity. A married man. I don't think I need to explain how claiming paternity in that case is rather compelling evidence.

Look, strip the story of names, and run it like this:

Noted gossip magazine E (one with a long history of ludicrous 'stories') claims that former Politician X had an affair with a staffer and fathered a baby with her. However, married man Z claims the baby is his and admits affair with staffer. Magazine E releases another story, about a supposed 'rendevouz' to meet the baby. Story quotes anonymous sources, and one guard who says "Yeah the guy sort of looks like that" and claims there was a horde of photographers and news media following Politician X.

However, Magazine E is able to release only a very grainy photo of a man holding a baby. Identification of the man is impossible -- the picture is that bad. Furthermore, comparison photo of the man (supposedly wearing the same sweat-stained shirt) was actually taken several weeks before.

Would you believe that? Why? Anonymous quotes, blurry photograph, and a "love child" that had a married man claiming paternity and the mother DENYING any affair?

How could covering that be anything OTHER than trafficing in unfounded gossip?

Yeah, it was stupid and irresponsible given political realities in America, and I find it disappointing, although I agree with Jesurgislac on how such things become ridiculously overblown spectacles, and it's really only the business of the people involved.

I didn't follow all of Kaus' pieces on this, since I really try to avoid reading him at all. What I did read was often irresponsible, unsupported and poorly argued, so I don't see a problem with saying, yes, the affair turned out to be true, and yes, Kaus is a hack. If he wants to claim good instincts, fine.

Similarly, I'll be interested in hearing what Edwards has to say, but it's not as if his proposals on health care and poverty reduction are suddenly invalidated because of this - although sadly, our culture often plays it that way. Edwards sure ain't gonna be the best spokesman for some of his causes. Mostly, I just feel bad for Elizabeth.

John, I just tried your website a while back and noticed it was down. Hope it's back up soon. I don't see why you can't write pretty much what you did here, even if I feel differently about Edwards...

But does this mean that the story about Kaus and the goats is true as well?

I'm with cleek, for all the reasons cleek and hilzoy enumerate. And, to cleek's "scumbag" I will add "shallow, selfish ass".

The man was running for President. His wife was recovering, or not recovering as the case may be, from cancer. That is the moment he decides to have an affair?

I have no problem with politicians stating that their private life is private. That falls under the category of Nell's "None of your business".

When everyone claimed Bush was an ex-cokehead, he just said "I'm not discussing it". End of story. Well played.

There are lots of other examples like that.

Edwards didn't say "None of your business". He said it was a damned lie.

I'm not really about pointing the finger at people for their moral failings. Believe me. Everybody, or close enough to everybody for horseshoes and atom bombs, screws up.

I *am* about people in public life -- people who hold positions of extraordinary responsibility -- comporting themselves with the minimum daily requirement of basic, common sense awareness of the consequences of their actions, both to themselves and to folks they are responsible to.

What a dope.

Thanks -

But does this mean that the story about Kaus and the goats is true as well?

That is a damned lie.

It was only one goat.

Thanks -

Morat20: Forget the picture (I said possibly). There were tourists who watched it unfold. The hotel security staff eventually escorted him from the bathroom. A bunch of folks saw him. I don’t think it was a difficult task for any reporter to follow up on that…

But does this mean that the story about Kaus and the goats is true as well?

Ewe have to be kidding?

Morat20: Forget the picture (I said possibly). There were tourists who watched it unfold. The hotel security staff eventually escorted him from the bathroom. A bunch of folks saw him. I don’t think it was a difficult task for any reporter to follow up on that…

No names except the guard, whose statement was "He didn't recognize him", until he was shown a picture and said "Yeah, he sort of looked like that".

Supposedly he was in the bathroom because reporters chased him there! Yet there wasn't a SINGLE PICTURE OF IT. No one reporting it but the Enquirer.

How's that square up?

Jes- I totally agree, you're dead on (and not because you persuaded me I'm wrong this time!).

Edwards made a point of telling Woodruff that his wife's cancer was in remission when he began the affair with Hunter.

Let me say first that of course I'm disgusted by this, as I am by any 'cheating' on one's partner. But I have to give Edwards the tiniest bit of credit for at least waiting until remission. He loses, say 100 points for cheating on his wife, 100 more for doing so while she's sick. But he gets half a point for waiting.

The more I think about this, the angrier I get...even about much more minor things like his saying that he didn't love Rielle...

That bugged me a lot too. We already know that you were incredibly callous, why trash the other woman? I'm a lot more concerned about Elizabeth, but Ms. Hunter has feelings and this probably isn't easy for her. It seems gratuitous and petty to say, "Sure I slept with her, but I didn't love her!" It bespeaks a certain objectification of women that's kinda disgusting.

LeftTurn- I get the feeling that Edwards was mostly in the campaign to promote issues and that he didn't rate his chances too favorably. No support for that, but looking at Obama and Hillary, he had to have realized his chances were slim. That said, just about any candidate but Kucinich running with this hanging over their head is incredibly selfish, naive, stupid, or all of the above.

Overall, I'm just really disappointed in John Edwards. I think most of us just expected a lot better from him.

Ewe have to be kidding?

Owl swear it was in the gnus.

I get the feeling that Edwards was mostly in the campaign to promote issues and that he didn't rate his chances too favorably.

I had that feeling too, during the primaries, but in the current context I'm somewhat reluctant to be too charitable without a firm foundation of fact to stand on.

I have to respectfully dissent from the point that Jes made above about how in a somewhat more ideal world “none of your business” would be the best answer. Yes, the press blows these things way out of proportion (because almost everybody enjoys some good salacious gossip), but while not going to the extremes of Puritanism that were on display during the Bill Clinton impeachment process, I do think that our very high level leaders should have some degree of public responsibility to lead their private lives in conformance with a higher standard of morality (including their sex lives) than the rest of us. Like it or not, they are role models, and while a small part of the job description, it is still a factor, IMHO.

The other thing which for me makes these sort of affairs to some small degree relevant in judging a candidate’s fitness for office, is that is provides a window into that person’s attitudes towards risk taking. Having an affair is a risky thing to do, especially for someone who is in the glare of the public spotlight. Knowing that and then doing it anyway tells me that this person does not have a very good grasp of how to evaluate risks, which may extend to other judgments more directly relevant to the making of public policy. It is a character flaw which while common, is nonetheless a factor which I consider when judging them.

If we expect candidates who are above average in intelligence, wisdom, grace under pressure, and other such qualities, then I don’t see why their private morality should not also be a touch better than average. That doesn’t mean I would vote for a puritanical candidate in preference over one who is better from a policy standpoint while having a messy personal life, just that I see it as one of many factors to evaluate in judging the character of our leaders.

I'm a lot more concerned about Elizabeth, but Ms. Hunter has feelings and this probably isn't easy for her. It seems gratuitous and petty to say, "Sure I slept with her, but I didn't love her!" It bespeaks a certain objectification of women that's kinda disgusting.

How is he objectifying her? I can see calling it callous, petty, whatever, but as I understand the word objectification, it refers to treating women only as a means of gratification and/or as if they have value only insofar as they are sexual. He doesn't love her (if you mean that sex with anyone you don't love objectifies her, we'll have to agree to disagree), and it was a bit cruel to say so publicly -- but as she's an unmarried mother whom he isn't divorcing his wife to marry, I suspect they've had that conversation privately already. My own guess is that he is trying to give Elizabeth what little he can in this mess, making it as clear as he can that she is his choice and his priority. That's what he should do.

Personally, I am neither outraged nor shocked by the story: if Elizabeth isn't upset, it's nobody else's business, and Edwards always struck me as phoney. Not a terrible person, not without many great virtues, but great sincerity or integrity did not seem to be among his. I am a little surprised, like publius, at how bad his judgment was. Since he didn't win the nomination, and was not an especially big part of Obama's strategy, it's basically irrelevant now. The effect on the election should be negligible.

Owl swear it was in the gnus.

You http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otter>otter not http://www.wayodd.com/funny-pictures2/funny-pictures-ugly-hog-1J7.jpg>hog the thread. Its really http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Wild_Pig_KSC02pd0873.jpg>boar-ing. I'd rather go watch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Vulpes_vulpes.jpg>Fox and look for some http://z.about.com/d/animals/1/0/h/9/shutterstock_304958.jpg>boobies.

Thank god he wasn't the nominee. I never thought I'd be saying THAT, but, sure enough...

Pols lie about this stuff to the press because they have to. 'None of your business' almost never works about infidelity, let's face it. It should indeed be none of anybody's business (except for Elizabeth/family, obviously, who already knew). But since things are the way they are rather than the way they should be, Edwards was incredibly irresponsible and stupid for doing this. The only word for him in this case is 'fool'.

Is this affair better, worse, or about the same as how McCain treated his 1st wife?

What McCain did is quite a bit worse, IMO, and speaks much more to his character than what Edwards did - not that anybody cares. It's no defense of what Edwards did to say that there is a big difference between having sex with someone other than your wife and *abandoning* your wife after she got in a car accident and was no longer svelt, or whatever.

I agree with all those who say that Edwards should have said "none of your business." But he didn't.

Not only did he not say this, he also actively argued that marital fidelity is a good way for voters to judge presidential candidates.

And he certainly wasn't required to do that.

if you mean that sex with anyone you don't love objectifies her, we'll have to agree to disagree

That's what I had in mind, but when you put it that way, I'm not so sure anymore. I think that I assumed his statement meant that he had no feelings whatsoever for the woman and in that case, I would still say that she's simply an object. Of course its certainly more complicated, so my comment there is probably unfair.

My own guess is that he is trying to give Elizabeth what little he can in this mess, making it as clear as he can that she is his choice and his priority.

That didn't occur to me before, but it seems pretty likely. If that is the case, his comment about not loving the other woman doesn't bother me as much.

BTW- I really like the 'Crafty' adjective. It gives me a mental image of a trilobite setting a trap and waiting patiently.

OCSteve: I didn't follow this closely, so I don't (and didn't) know whether there were supposed to be other witnesses, etc. I think that before I'd fault anyone for not covering it, I have to think more about how important a story it is, with Edwards out of the race. If he were running for something, or seriously in contention for VP, sure. But "retired politician is cheating on wife" -- ??

It's not as if any of these papers held back on Clinton, for instance. In his case, much as I would prefer a world in which no one cared who slept with whom, he was actually President. But Edwards really doesn't have any public responsibilities or position or anything. I suspect that might have played into it.

For my part, I just thought: if I start covering things the National Enquirer writes, I'll end up writing about -- well, I just was at the grocery store, and the story du jour was that George Bush and Laura have definitively split up, which I suppose is better than 'Boy born with devil's head and horns!' or 'cloud forms in shape of Satan!' or whatever.

I'm wondering if the Obama VP search had an inkling of this. Remember all the stories about how Edwards was the best VP choice? I always thought it was interesting that it seemed like the possibility of Edwards as veep was dead in the water.

If we expect candidates who are above average in intelligence, wisdom, grace under pressure, and other such qualities, then I don’t see why their private morality should not also be a touch better than average.

TLTIABQ, I have to ask: what makes anybody think that Edwards's private morality is not, in fact, a touch better than average?

I mean no snark at you. I just need to vent, after watching former(?) plagiarist Mike Barnicle (filling in for Tweety on MSNBC) rag on Edwards's "hypocrisy".

-- TP

Argh:

"Fred Baron, the chief campaign money raiser for former Sen. John Edwards, said he provided help to those involved in Edwards’ extra-marital affair.

"I decided independently to help two friends and former colleagues rebuild their lives when harassment by supermarket tabloids made it impossible for them to conduct a normal life," Baron, a Dallas trial lawyer said in a statement, Rob Christensen reports.

"John Edwards was not aware that assistance was provided to anyone involved in this matter," Baron said. "I did it of my own voilition and without the knowledge, instruction, or suggestion of John Edwards or anyone else. The assistance was offered and accepted without condition."

Although Baron did not name any names, he was apparently referring to Rielle Hunter, with whom Edwards had an affair, and Andrew Young, a former Edwards aide, who has said he fathered Hunter’s child."

"Ewe have to be kidding?"

Naaaaaaaahh!

Perhaps he thought the lesson to be drawn from the Clinton imbroglio was to hold out for a girlfriend who swallows.

John Edwards, for all his poor judgment, did this country and the Democratic Party a great service by making the Iowa caucuses a three-way race and the early primaries a two and a half-way race, thus frustrating Hillary Clinton's claim to inevitability and giving Barack Obama the opening he needed.

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this sordid mess will be to focus attention on adultery as an issue regarding a politician's character. Perhaps the media representatives who have been as solicitous of John McCain as Monica Lewinsky was solicitous of Bill Clinton will ask McCain about his middle-aged horndoggery with his Barbie beer heiress.

Along that line, Christopher Beam has some trenchant commentary at Slate:,

[T]he news is not all bad for Democrats. First, Obama is pretty much soaked in Teflon when it comes to family matters. Second, it could be a lot worse: What if Edwards had actually won the nomination? And third, it introduces marital infidelity back into the conversation.

Recall: John McCain returned to the United States from Vietnam in March 1973. His wife, Carol, had been in a near-fatal car accident while he was gone. She was overweight, on crutches, and 4 inches shorter than when McCain had left. McCain ended up divorcing Carol for Cindy Hensley, his current wife. Carol has remained mostly silent on her marriage to John, except for one notable comment to a McCain biographer: “John was turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again.”

There were legal complications, too. The Los Angeles Times reported in June that McCain obtained a marriage license while still legally married to his first wife. McCain suggested in his autobiography that he divorced Carol months before marrying Cindy. In fact, that period was about five weeks. He also said that for the first nine months of his relationship with Cindy, he still “cohabited” with Carol. Social conservatives were never McCain’s base, but yes, it could get worse.

For the most part, the media have politely skirted around this episode of McCain’s life. (Not to mention other unflattering moments.) For one thing, it’s long past. McCain has since developed a reputation for credibility and transparency. (Post-Keating Five, that is.) And, unlike Edwards, he told the truth about his deviance. "My marriage's collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity,” McCain wrote in his autobiography. “The blame was entirely mine."

But with Edwards’ infidelity front and center, that could change. . . .

Or so we may hope.


It's worse than that, hilzoy. DMN:

Dallas lawyer Fred Baron told The Dallas Morning News today that he paid relocation and housing expenses for the woman that former presidential candidate John Edwards has confessed to having an affair with.

Mr. Baron, who was chairman of Mr. Edwards’ presidential campaign finance committee, said he paid money for Rielle Hunter to move from North Carolina to another location.

As a former Edwards supported, I am deeply disappointed to learn that the Enquirer's reports were true. That said, I've been thinking what might have led him to be unfaithful to his wife and mother of his children who, I still think, he deeply loves. No matter what his and Elizabeth's sex life was like during her illness and while she was thought to be in remission - I don't care if it was twice a night and three times as hot - somewhere in the back of his mind might have been, "Maybe she's hurting, maybe this is too much." Having sex with a young, healthy woman might have been quite the stress and even guilt reliever. I don't know. I wasn't there. It's not for me to judge him.

I loathe Edwards, but camping out at the man's house is beyond the pale. His wife and kids don't deserve this crap. Leave them be.

Having sex with a young, healthy woman might have been quite the stress and even guilt reliever. I don't know. I wasn't there. It's not for me to judge him.

It may not be for you to judge him in the realm of his affairs. I do think that, for the purposes of evaluating Edwards as a political figure, it behooves us to consider how he handled the disclosure process. Bald-faced lies are something that I may expect from my politicians, but it's not something that I want.

[Edwards] actively argued that marital fidelity is a good way for voters to judge presidential candidates.

Ben, I think he said it was one way, but not a 'controlling' way.

Here's the end of the exchange:

EDWARDS: I think the most important qualities in a president in today's world are trustworthiness-- sincerity, honesty, strength of leadership. And-- and certainly that goes to a part of that. It's not the whole thing. But it goes to a part of it.

COURIC: So you think it's-- an appropriate way to judge a candidate?

EDWARDS: Yeah. But I don't think it's controlling. I mean, I think that, as you point out, there have been American presidents that at least according to the-- to the stories we've all heard-- that were not faithful, that were in fact good presidents. So I don't think it controls the issue. But I think it's certain-- something reasonable for people to consider.

Look, it's fine to think the guy is an ass---- for this - I think so too: a.) if he'd been the nominee, it really would've been a disaster, and b.) he lied to the person he loves. But there always seem to be people who, *whenever* Edwards has been the topic, feel a compulsion to kick the guy, either in an overt way, or a subtle one (like Ben). It really says more about the people doing the kicking than about Edwards.

if you mean that sex with anyone you don't love objectifies her, we'll have to agree to disagree

A very smart person once said that sex need have nothing to do with love - that, in fact, you don't need to love even *yourself* to have sex. And sex is most definitely what we're talking about here - the one subject about which Americans' 'national dialog' is unfailingly, stubbornly infantile. The idea that someone who has sex with someone they don't love must be 'objectifying' the other person is indeed bit unfair, as MeDrewNotYou wisely allows. How does it really help us understand the relationship between two people to say that they are 'objectifying' each other? I mean, aren't there debatable value judgements built into that?

"Having sex with a young, healthy woman might have been quite the stress and even guilt reliever. I don't know. I wasn't there. It's not for me to judge him."

I don't have much to say about that part. I don't care for infidelity, but I think that's between him and his family.

However, the part where, having done that, he then decides to run for President -- and not after, say, 20 years of good governance, with the country in great shape, and a field of impressive Republican candidates, but now -- that I find unforgivable. (OK, maybe not unforgivable -- who knows what the future holds, and who I might forgive? -- but pretty darn lousy and narcissistic.)

Love and its variations are more complicated than politics.

It could be that the great leader is a cheat and a bounder in his or her personal life.

It could be that the great family man or woman is a person you wouldn't want within 8000 miles of the telephone when things goes kablooey.

We know nothing.

We judge everything.

What Jes said.

"things goes kablooey" ??

Judge thee not.

Based on Elizabeth Edwards' statement, I am actually going to back off from this one. I might not trust her husband anymore, but I do trust her, and I think her request makes sense.

Although I will say that he may be the luckiest man alive to be married to her.

"things goes kablooey" ??

Judge thee not.

Sometimes I think you do that on purpose.

Adultery is bad, IMO, and it was stupid for Edwards to do this for reasons hilzoy and others have mentioned. What keeps me from going further on this, though, is the knowledge that quite a few people, including people I deeply admire (like MLK) have put themselves in this position--that is, they've committed adultery and given a possible propaganda or blackmail tool to their enemies when they were engaged in work of great importance.

So it's a common human failing, apparently, and people prone to this particular sort of sin don't seem to think very clearly about the risks.

America is incredibly infantile about sex. Ours is also a deeply judgmental culture. Infantilism and judgmentalism don't go together very well.

I don't fault Edwards for his conduct: that is between him and his wife. I also don't fault him because I know very well what it's like to do something I consider to be wrong or bad, and then not be able to stop doing it (in my case, that was smoking.) Again: none of us know what's going on in his mind, so we're not in a good position to judge him, though that won't stop us from doing so, will it?

This pother over infidelity, justified by conflating infidelity with overriding character flaws, is historically illiterate and so wrong as to be daft. We KNOW there have been sexually untrustworthy people who have been excellent statesmen and -women, and we KNOW there have been good monogamous people who've been utter disasters as national leaders.

We know these things, and we still react like outraged maiden aunts when we find out some married fellow has cheated on his wife. I don't even know how authentic the outrage is anymore, it's so mixed up with gotcha! politics.

That's why I'm glad Edwards isn't our nominee. Not because he 'proved' himself unfit to be President, but because American culture is incapable of distinguishing private failures from public ones.

Not that it will make that much of an impression here, but how exactly did Barack Obama go about getting elected as a US Senator?

From Wikipedia:

Blair Hull:

A month before the primary elections a news story broke out regarding his divorce from his ex-wife. the controversy ended up destroying the Hull campaign. Hull tried to keep the divorce records sealed, but pressure from journalists and his opposing candidates forced him to release them.

Jack Ryan:

Subsequent to his withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race in Illinois, Jack Ryan has characterized what happened to him as a "new low for politics in America". According to Ryan, it was unprecedented in American politics for a newspaper to sue for access to sealed custody documents. Ryan opposed unsealing the divorce records of Senator John Kerry during Kerry's race against George W. Bush in 2004, and Kerry's divorce records remained sealed. Ryan has made this request: "let me be the only person this has happened to. Don’t ask for Ted Kennedy’s. Don’t ask for John McCain’s. Don’t ask for Joe Lieberman’s. Just stop. This is not a good precedent for American society if you really want the best and brightest to run."

And duly noted, the Republicans lost the House in 2006 because of the Mark Foley fiasco, duly noted in post after post on ObWi in september/October 2006. Not that Foley wasn't a sleazebag, but look how it was played up, for political purposes.

When I said that the media doesn't care about adultery by Republicans, I was excluding cases in which there's something special like homosexuality, 16-year-olds, prostitutes, or visits to sex clubs. But even then, I note that Eliot Spitzer is out of office, while David Vitter and Larry Craig aren't.

I'm not sure what to say about DaveC's implication that Obama is the head of the secret sex police squad and apparently took out Edwards long after it would have made any difference. Presumably DaveC's liberal neighbors' dog made a mess on his lawn and he came over here to let off steam among us virtual people as is his habit.

Although I will say that he may be the luckiest man alive to be married to her.

Absolutely. That woman is something else.

After chatting with a friend who was an Edwards backer in '04 and '08, I feel obliged to mention that he did tell his wife 2yrs ago and they're still together. I'm sure not all the scars are healed, but they seem to have worked things out. That's no defense of what John Edwards did then, but it's ever so slightly to his credit now. (Although 99.99% of that credit goes to Elizabeth.)

Not so much stupid as selfish and irresponsible.

As a matter of intelligence Edwards might have calcualted he had a reasonable chance of getting away with it (reference Bush, George Herbert Walker).

Consider how selfish and irresponsible to risk the fortunes of the Democratic Party and all the people he purported to represent for personal gratification (reference Clinton, William Jefferson).

Even as it is he has given the Republicans another selfish narcissistic Democrat from whom they can generalize.

Still, we dodged a bullet. His statement was pathetic and shows the man's true colors.

It is difficult to know both what the rules should be and what the rules are. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the majority of high-level married male politicians have had affairs. Yet I wouldn't want to disqualify them all from office, and clearly the media only get aroused enough to look into it on special occasions.

hilzoy: the part where, having done that, he then decides to run for President -- and not after, say, 20 years of good governance, with the country in great shape, and a field of impressive Republican candidates, but now -- that I find unforgivable. (OK, maybe not unforgivable -- who knows what the future holds, and who I might forgive? -- but pretty darn lousy and narcissistic.)

To be accurate, he had the affair after he decided to run for president, while he was already running, even if not in official FEC terms. Edwards was always going to run in 2008 and had been organizing since shortly after a rest over the winter of 2004-5.

They're all narcissists; it's built into our winner-take-all, celebrity system of elections. This is a truth that the late Paul Tully, a brilliant electoral operative, used to teach. Day one of his trainings began with the maxim: "All candidates are a**holes."

But, I hear you protest, my candidate's not a narcissistic a**hole. No? Reflect for a moment on the level of -- let's call it self-confidence that it took to decide that after not even one full term in the Senate, with several excellent candidates already in the race, and not a whole lot in the way of policy differences from them, that the nation needed his particular leadership right now.

Given the depth of your commitment to Barack Obama's candidacy, you might want to take a moment or two to be grateful for Edwards' role in making Obama's nomination possible. First, as noted above, by coming in second in Iowa to make it a three-way race and take a lot of the steam out of the HRC inevitability, and then by dropping out before Super Tuesday to clear the the way for Obama to rack up delegate margins.

KCinDC: Presumably DaveC's liberal neighbors' dog made a mess on his lawn and he came over here to let off steam among us virtual people as is his habit.

And in doing so, let us know that he thinks that when a senior Republican politician (who had made a career out of condemning other people's sex lives) are found to be serial sexual harassers of boys/young men, and other senior Republican politicians knew about this harassment and covered up for their pal, widespread condemnation is "political".

Mark Foley's behaviour is a very pure example of where a politician's sex life is rightfully of public interest: first because he was in the habit of sexually harassing young people whose careers were dependent on his good opinion, and anyone who does that deserves to be publicly condemned: second because Foley himself had made public speeches against other people's sex lives and promoted legislation to regulate other people's sex lives - and in either case, a politician is no longer owed privacy about their own sex life.

I find the US press and public about a hundred times more disgusting in this regard than Edwards (or Bill Clinton for that matter).

If we expect candidates who are above average in intelligence, wisdom, grace under pressure, and other such qualities, then I don’t see why their private morality should not also be a touch better than average.

TLTIABQ, I have to ask: what makes anybody think that Edwards's private morality is not, in fact, a touch better than average?

I think that you've been exposed too much to tabloid coverage of celebrities and politicians, to think that cheating on your sick wife is above average behavior.

"Having sex with a young, healthy woman might have been quite the stress and even guilt reliever. I don't know. I wasn't there. It's not for me to judge him."

Feh. His hand had other commitments?

As long as a candidate or officeholder keeps it between him and his spouse, his sex life is nobody else's business. But I think the notion that marital infidelity doesn't tell us anything about a public figure's general moral character is ludicrous. I don't believe people are, generally speaking, compartmentalized to that extent.

I'm a lot more concerned about Elizabeth, but Ms. Hunter has feelings and this probably isn't easy for her. It seems gratuitous and petty to say, "Sure I slept with her, but I didn't love her!" It bespeaks a certain objectification of women that's kinda disgusting.

Uh, you know, there's the nonzero possibility that Hunter didn't/doesn't love Edwards, either. Women are just as capable as men are at seeking out sexual partners without being in love.

Feh. His hand had other commitments?

So masturbation is a perfect substitute for sex, eh? Man, I pity your wife.

Women are just as capable as men are at seeking out sexual partners without being in love.

Yes, but (and this may be my sexism talking) I think that its less likely for the woman in a heterosexual relationship to have little/no attachment than for the man. That being said, power is an aphrodisiac and that could be one of (or the) primary reasons Hunter participated, with little room for love.

So, yeah, I'm waffling a bit on this. ^.^;

John Edwards has been disgraced. He made his own bed . . .

I just hope as this drags on that he doesn't become grouped w/ Mark Foley; don't see any comparison between the two.

FWIW, Edwards' apology on "Nightline" seemed pretty forceful. Not many politicians come right out and say: "I was wrong."

He also had the good sense to do the interview by himself and not have Elizabeth there by his side as some sort of prop.

But did he have to re-tell his life story again and tell his he started out poor in North Carolina?


I agree with the comment that this is relevant because it shows Edwards to be a poor judge of risk. Edwards knew- we all knew- that there was a strong probability the the Bushies would turn their powers of war-on-terror extraordinary surveillance against the Democratic candidate. (Remember Watergate?) And this was the sort of thing that could be detected by searching phone records, etc. Edwards should have realized that, if he won the nomination, the probability was HIGH that the Republican campaign would have learned about this, and found a way to make it public.

Also, I do not believe that Edwards has come clean. His story is that the affair was completely over a year and a half ago, and he's not the father, and he's not emotionally attached to his former mistress? Then what the bloody hell was he doing visiting her, recently, in her hotel room, in the middle of the night? That would be understandable (even in a way creditable) if he is the father and wants to maintain some kind of bond with his child. If he's not the father, and is sincerely trying to rebuild his marriage, secret hotel visits are not the way to do it. This is all too reminiscent of "I did not have sex with that woman". Repeated, reflexive lying is something legitimate to consider in deciding whom to vote for.

I too would like to get back to the days when FDR could keep his private life private, but until that happens, I expect progressive candidates to manage their human failings in a way that does not put Republicans in office.

BTW, no one seems to want to say why Edwards and Hunter did what they did.

Forget emotions.

They were horny, people.

"So masturbation is a perfect substitute for sex, eh? Man, I pity your wife."

Perfect? No. Better than cheating on your wife? Absolutely!

"Edwards knew- we all knew- that there was a strong probability the the Bushies would turn their powers of war-on-terror extraordinary surveillance against the Democratic candidate."

Are you nuts? This didn't take "war on terror extraordinary surveillance" to uncover, it took "every day ordinary celebrity" surveillance, the sort anybody whose the least bit of a public figure is subject to. Anybody remotely as famous as Edwards who thinks they can keep affairs hidden is seriously delusional.

And, frankly, I could make a case for the government doing some degree of surveillance on anybody with a significant chance of becoming President; A President who had secrets subject to blackmail would be a terrifying security risk.

"Better than cheating on your wife? Absolutely!"

Hard to argue w/ that, Brett.

That's why they make porn. (See youporn, tube8, the list is endless).

Can we put to rest the idea that Obama is arrogant (ie, uppity) for even considering to run for president, when the white guy had a lot more chutzpah to run while engaging in an affair?

I don't think we can put that to rest, but we CAN say that everybody who runs for President is awfully arrogant. So it's a non-issue unless they start acting especially arrogant by Presidential candidate standards.

Oh, I don't know, maybe creating their own Presidential seal, or planning the transition before the election. ;)

KathyF,

I'm not sure if stupidity = arrogance or uppity.

Or: Does being weak and human make you arrogant?

I'm not very religious or I'd try quoting from the Bible about casting the first stone and all of that.

Maybe Edwards was compensating for Republican/Coulter rumor-mongering that he was gay.

There's lots to condemn Edwards for, but if his underestimation of the mean little political swamp we live in is not his worst sin, it is a telling one. He is, was, naive.

If cheating and lying in the world is really all that important to the judgemental, when is Laura Bush going to pack up her stuff and tell George W. that he's not fit to be her husband?

She won't, because in fact human beings DO compartmentalize. You can blow up the world and tell everyone you were really at the movies the afternoon you did it, and still be a good husband.

When will John McCain withdraw from the race for his calamitous (for his first wife) decision to woo current wife?

"Maybe Edwards was compensating for Republican/Coulter rumor-mongering that he was gay."

Well, he pretty much put that rumor to rest.

"human beings DO compartmentalize"

Every minute of every single f---n' day.

"Maybe Edwards was compensating for Republican/Coulter rumor-mongering that he was gay."
Well, he pretty much put that rumor to rest.

I wouldn't be so sure. You've got to remember Ann Coulter has no soul (or brain, for that matter). I can hear her explaining the concept of a 'beard' to FoxNews viewers now.

Masturbation is PREFERRED over cheating on your sick wife.

Masturbation is BETTER than invading Iraq.

But there always seem to be people who, *whenever* Edwards has been the topic, feel a compulsion to kick the guy, either in an overt way, or a subtle one (like Ben). It really says more about the people doing the kicking than about Edwards.

There certainly are people who feel a compulsion to kick Edwards, but I'm not one of them, jonnybutter. In fact, if you had held a gun to my head and made me vote for one of the three leading Democratic candidates back on Super Tuesday, I would almost certainly have chosen Edwards. (FWIW, I'm a registered independent in a closed primary state who would have voted for Kucinich if forced to choose among all the Democrats.) My decision to kick Edwards in this case is not the result of a general compulsion.

That's why I'm glad Edwards isn't our nominee. Not because he 'proved' himself unfit to be President, but because American culture is incapable of distinguishing private failures from public ones.

Actually, the situation is significantly more complicated than that. None of George W. Bush's many private failings sank his public career. And it looks like David Vitter may join the ranks of the many other politicians who've ridden out storms of private scandal.

Americans are obsessed with the private lives of our politicians, but over and over again we forgive them. Just look at Clinton's popularity numbers during the last two years of his presidency.

The real potential political problem for Edwards here wasn't the affair itself as much as the way he played it: covering it up while merrily embracing family-values pablum.

And this was apparently a strategy that Elizabeth Edwards signed on to, as well. So though she's clearly the victim of John Edwards' private sins, she's one of the architects of his public ones.

In fact, if you had held a gun to my head and made me vote for one of the three leading Democratic candidates back on Super Tuesday, I would almost certainly have chosen Edwards.

Correction: That should be before Super Tuesday, since Edwards dropped out just before.

Best line to come out of the Edwards mess:

Dana Milbank, on CNN, saying that the John Edwards of two Americas forgot that there were two John Edwards.

"well, I just was at the grocery store, and the story du jour was that George Bush and Laura have definitively split up,"

OCSteve, are you agitating for reporters to "follow up on this one"? Concerned if they are not, and if conservative bloggers aren't blogging about it?

Brett- I'd have to admit that many who know me might say that I AM nuts, but that's another story. I thought your comments were important, so here's my reply.

The idea that the Republicans might take out a promising Democrat using war-on-terror surveillance is not hypothetical. That's precisely what happened to Eliot Spitzer.

Yes, in this case Edwards was exposed using ordinary tabloid reporting techniques. However, if the Republicans had learned about Edwards' affair, they would not have revealed during the primary. (Why would they?) They would have kept it and revealed it if he became the nominee- or the VP nominee.

But this is the important part- your comment that it would be a good idea for the government to "vet" candidates by spying on them and exposing their secrets. I agree that we do NOT want a president with a blackmail-worthy secret. That's part of why I think Edwards should have dropped out. However, if the government starts doing that, it gives a HUGE advantage to the incumbent party- leading to something like Putin's Russia, where the ruling party uses the power of the state to stay in power. Do you really think the Feds would have revealed Spitzer's use of prostitutes if he'd been a Republican?

Gary: OCSteve, are you agitating for reporters to "follow up on this one"? Concerned if they are not, and if conservative bloggers aren't blogging about it?

I don’t believe I tried to make a case that the Enquirer is a reputable source in general. I do understand that they are a tabloid. That doesn’t mean they are always wrong:

Clinton Pardons
Jesse Jackson's “love child”
OJ
Details of the Lewinsky business.

They do occasionally break actual news. Given the multiple eyewitnesses involved, this story just seemed credible to me. And the only thing I ever said about it before it was confirmed yesterday is that I was glad you (Democrats) didn’t nominate him. Many people here seem to agree with me on that point. So I’m not sure what your point is…

Bedtime, Ann Coulter says Bill Clinton's behavior is evidence of "latent homsexuality", so I don't think this will necessarily change her rhetoric about Edwards.

Bill Clinton as a homosexual.

What does this woman smoke?

"99% truthful"??

That comment, in and of itself, illustrates the essential problem with Edwards and his somewhat, quasi-, nonapology.

I do feel for Elizabeth Edwards, although she, too, displayed bad judgment. Knowing that this skeleton was hiding in the closet, she and he chose to make their marriage an emotional centerpiece of thier campaign. Not smart.

But that is why this story was marginally relevant, back when Edwards was being considered for the number 1 or 2 spot. (I don't think it's relevant now, given that Edwards is out of the campaign and has been nixed as a VP). Although I agree with Jes's observation regarding the public/private distinction, Edwards' affair places a Vitter on the Spitzer scale.

By the way, I don't think that the story is done. The Enquirer photo suggests a much deeper connection between Edwards and Hunter than Edwards' statement allows. Among other things, it seems to have been taken during a different trip to that hotel ... and Edwards' discussion of the photo during his interview was very cagey. Nor do I buy that he had no knowledge that Hunter was being compensated. Edwards' admission is a classic "show": I'll show you this and hope you're satisfied .... so you don't discover that.

The "that" should be left undiscovered. But I suspect that it's going to come out.

Yeah, but at least Edwards came from a mill town.

"Foolish me -- I thought it was impossible for someone running for President to be that monumentally stupid."

I don't mean to poke fun at you, Publius; you strike me as a decent and bright guy. People willing to publically admit an error and apologize for it are truly rare.

But: 10 years after Bill Clinton managed to get himself impeached by stupidly perjuring himself about Monica Lewinsky, despite the existence of DNA testing, a blue dress, and a Republican Party hungering for his fricaseed posterior ... you still managed to delude yourself that nobody in public life could be "that monumentally stupid"?

If it makes you feel any better, I am a one-time Clinton voter who also foolishly believed that nobody could be that dumb. Way away back in 1992 and 1996, that is. By 1999, my delicate little dream-world had been abruptly shattered, never to return.

But you seem to have kept those happy illusions straight up into mid-2008. So, I guess it's true that "the only lesson we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history".

I'd love a return to the glory days when this country had enough time and money on its hands to obsess over the cum stain on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress.

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