“I think this President has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen.”
– John Edwards February 12, 1999
“I think every single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation for America to engage in, to look at, what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we’d make.”
– John Edwards March 27, 2007
In light of Edwards admitting yesterday to having an affair in 2006 with Rielle Hunter, some people are asking if we should even care. If it isn’t just a personal matter for the Edwards family. Even his wife has asked for privacy.
Edwards had an affair. I don’t even fault him so much for that. Some women are attracted to powerful men, even when the men are as ugly as Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon. For a man like Edwards who had the trifecta of wealth, power, and good looks there would have been a lot of temptation. I don’t think many men would have been able to resist it. As I’ve said before, if you’re ready to vote for a politician the fact that he’s had an affair in the past probably won’t stop you, and maybe it shouldn’t.
Where it’s fair to fault Edwards is in his cheating on the one hand and on the other holding up his personal life to explain why people should vote for him. His career political accomplishments are few. He was a one term Senator with a lousy attendance record and a losing vice presidential candidate who failed to carry his home state. At some point he must have decided that his marriage and family life were the only assets he had to run on.
Public knowledge of his affair with Rielle Hunter would have poisoned those assets, which is why Edwards and his wife had to conspire to hide the truth from the public if they had any hope to gain the White House. To do that they had to lie, and those lies hurt other people. As Lee Stranahan has said those lies necessarily accused the people who were telling the truth about the affairs of being the liars.
Hunter would become pregnant. Edwards denies the child is his, but has not taken a paternity test. Instead, a campaign worker, Andrew Young, claimed the child as his, though afterwards the child was born and Young did not sign the paperwork to be listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate. Young is married and has his own children. Presumably he was only willing to go so far to help the Edwardses in their charade.
Most grownups doubt that Young is the father. Assuming he is not, the Young family’s prestige and reputation have been tarnished in order to protect Edwards’ infidelity and the lies that John and Elizabeth have been telling. That would mean the Edwardses pulled another family into their scandal, which makes it increasingly difficult to consider this a private family matter. UDPATE: in light of revelations about Young’s tax liens and criminal history, it’s more equally that Young supported Edwards because of payoffs than because of ideology.
Meanwhile, Edwards treatment of Rielle Hunter is horrific. Depending on which story you believe, Edwards either passed his mistress on to his friend Andrew Young after he was through enjoying her, or the Young story is a lie and Edwards just doesn’t want to claim the daughter he fathered with Hunter.
In his confession yesterday Edwards said he didn’t love Hunter, which means he just announced to the world that he used her for sex and now he’s done with her. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and now Hunter’s family is challenging Edwards to take a paternity test. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Rielle Hunter. I also don’t think we’ve heard the last of John Edwards’s confessions.