I really didn’t think I would have much to say on former Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee John Edwards’ recent admission that he lied about an extra-marital affair. Â But, I decided to weigh in because it seems (to me at least) many who have already written about the story have only gotten half of it. Â And upon learning (from my sister-in-law) of a comment he made to ABC News which I relate at the end of the post.
I agree in part with Glenn Reynolds, “the real story is how the mainstream press, despite knowing or strongly suspecting that he was lying, covered for him.” There is, however, more to it than that.
Given that the Edwards told his wife of his indiscretion, admitted he “made a very serious mistake” and asked her and God for forgiveness and apparently ended the affair, the story should be irrelevant to our political discourse, no more than fodder for the tabloids.Â It is, after all, primarily a matter between the former Senator and his wife.
What makes this an issue is not just that the North Carolina Democrat lied about it.Â It also raises the question of this man’s judgment and the image he created of himself, especially as Democratic nominee Barack Obama is considering him as a potentialÂ running mate**–or, should he win election, a member of his cabinet.
First, to the matter of Edwards’ judgment: what does it say about a candidate who, in the era of the Internet and in the wake of Bill Clinton’s indiscretions*, harbors national political ambitions and engages in an extra-marital liaison? Â He should knows it could be made public should just one prominent blogger gets wind of it, even if, as in this case, the MSM tries to ignore it.
As Ann Althouse put it:
What a selfish bastard â€”Â to run for the nomination while parading his cancerous wife about and knowing that if he won this story could have come out at any time . . .
Second, to the image he created of himself.Â As Lee Stranahan of the Huffington Post put it, Edwards and his wife “made a conscious decision to make their relationship a focus throughout the campaign” (via Kaus via Instapundit). Â He presented himself as a loving husband, concerned about his wife’s health and committed to their marriage.Â He even “made a point of telling [ABC reporter Bob] Woodruff that his wife’s cancer was in remission when he began the affair.”
He knew this could compromise the image he was trying to cultivate of a caring spouse. Â That he would say this is particularly revealing, as if he’s still trying to preserve the image he created last year. Â As if it somehow makes him a better personÂ because he only cheated when his wife was in remission.
Under normal circumstances, a man’s past indiscretions should be a matter for himself and his wife. Â And not the news media — or the blogosphere. Â
But, when the man in question enters into this relationship while pursuing higher political office, his actions calls into question his judgment, an aspect of his executive abilities. Â Not just that, what does he say about a man that he would pursue higher office by holding himself up as a devoted husband while betraying one of the fundamental principles of matrimony?
*UPDATE: Nine years ago, Edwards weighed in on Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky: “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.” That he would say this only confirms my point about his judgment. He was aware of the consequences of infidelity for a political figure.
**UP-UPDATE: Perhaps I should have said Edwards is positioning himself for the vice presidential nod or position in Obama’s cabinet should that Democrat win election this fall.