Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Monicagate, redux

Posted by sanityinjection on August 11, 2008

I have been resisting commenting on this story, but after much thought, there are a couple of points I’d like to make. I’m referring, of course, to the revelation that former Senator and Presidential candidate John Edwards had an affair in 2006 as he was beginning his second try for the White House.

Edwards is hardly the first politician to have an affair, and if that were all there were to this story, it would hardly be worth mentioning here. But in fact, Edwards’ transgression does matter, for the same reason that Bill Clinton’s did: It is not the initial affair, but rather the subsequent bold-faced lie about it, that is cause for concern. One can make a pretty good argument that a man’s personal philandering is not very relevant to how he conducts himself in elected office. Had Edwards, when confronted with the evidence, admitted the affair, it would have been a blemish, but not an insurmountable one. But instead, he repeatedly and scornfully denied that he had cheated on his wife, in tones reminiscent of Gary Hart’s ill-fated invitation to the press to “Go on, follow me, you’ll be bored!” and of course the now-legendary “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” In doing so, we were asked to believe that Edwards’ integrity as a public servant entitled him to be taken at his word. When the evidence finally surfaced to prove the affair and Edwards was caught in a public lie, that integrity was immediately called into question. Any reasonable voter might ask, “If Edwards was willing to lie about that, what *else* will he lie to us about?”

There is another factor with a public official caught having an affair, which is the issue of loyalty.  A man is expected to be loyal to his wife and family above all else. In having an affair, he is sacrficing his wife and family’s interest in favor of his own. Again, a reasonable voter might ask, “If Edwards has no loyalty to his own wife, why should he be trusted to show loyalty to the interests of the people he governs if he personally stands to benefit from screwing them?” (pun intended.)

Personally, this story only confirms my assessment of Edwards’ character. When I first became aware of Edwards, I was impressed by his speaking ability and telegenic charisma. But there was something that didn’t seem right. He was *too* smooth. All the words sounded right and the smile was bright and beautiful, but I didn’t trust him. I then learned that the man who was promising to fix the healthcare system and make it affordable for all Americans had spent his career getting rich by sueing doctors.  A questionable conversion on the road to Damsacus.

What is really embarrassing is Edwards’ insistence even now on trying to save his own reputation. He made a big deal of pointing out that at the time of his affair, his wife’s cancer was believed to be in remission. As if that makes it OK to cheat on her because she’s not dying? He also unnecessarily commented that he did not love the woman he had an affair with. Honestly, I would have thought better of him if he’d said he *did* love her. If you fall in love with someone and then succumb to an affair with them, that’s a little less pathetic than a simple inability to keep it in your pants.

Now everyone wants to know if Edwards’ public career is over. I believe it should be, because of his demonstrated lack of integrity, which is critical to the character of a public official. Rather than force the voters to reject him, while dragging his family’s embarrassment back into the public eye, Edwards should salvage what little dignity is left to him and his family and decline to run for future office.

USA Today has a nice op-ed quoting Edwards’ comments in 1999 on Bill Clinton’s scandal: “remarkable disrespect … for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter.”:


2 Responses to “Monicagate, redux”

  1. Dan said

    I feel much the same way as you, excepting as follows:

    All politicians lie. If you believe otherwise I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I would like to sell you for cheap. The sooner you learn to look beyond that and focus in on their (overt) policy and voting record the happier you will be.

    The only reason why the lying might be shocking, is that he cheated on his wife while she was sick and part of his campaign persona was focused in on strong morals.

    But- we are making huge assumptions about his actual relationship with his wife. She’s sticking by him, and apparently knew this for a while. For all we know they have a moderately open relationship. Politically (for all the wrong reasons) it is easier to say “Yah, I cheated”, than “Yah, we’re swingers”.

    So as long as his wife isn’t divorcing or condemning him, I will reserve judgment on his actual character.

  2. sanityinjection said

    Camille Paglia (Disclaimer: I have a major intellectual crush on Ms. Paglia) sums it up pretty well:

    “I’m not surprised and really don’t care that Edwards had an extramarital affair, but what a craven, sniveling little worm he has turned out to be — fleeing into hotel bathrooms, pretending to know nothing about payoffs under his nose, offering a paternity test while the mother bizarrely refuses it, and canonizing his long-suffering wife while doing her dirt.”

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