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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008


the shame of John Edwards

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, July 23, 2008 permalink View blog reactions
The National Enquirer may be a rag, but it looks like they nailed John Edwards hard. In a nutshell, they stalked Edwards while he attempted a covert late-night rendezvous with a mistress at a Los Angeles hotel.

There's a definite pattern here: Bill Clinton, Elliot Spitzer, and now John Edwards. Is there something inherently misogynistic about a white male lawyer who enters politics? Since all three have (to varying degrees of success) been considered presidential material, I speculate that they were seduced by a kind of celebrity syndrome. After all, this sort of behavior is usually reserved for the Hollywood scene (where it is practically the norm).

Let's note that the pattern extends backwards as well - Gary Hart, JFK. And it extends across the aisle - Newt Gingrich, and of course John McCain, who much like Edwards, ditched an ailing wife for a fresher model.

Still, the Republican dalliances are less of a concern to me than these Democratic icons, who are supposed to be progressive when it comes to women's issues and also who invoke moral values as one basis for their leadership acumen. Is there a deep flaw here, in progressive ideology, that makes it blind to morality and family values? Or are we just being played for fools?

Barack Obama - you are the ultimate rock star celebrity. Be warned.

NOTE: Open Left and Politics1 are both treating the story as legitimate. Also, a discussion at Gawker explains why the Enquirer story is not on par with Bat Boy nonsense, and addresses the question of why there aren't any photos (yet). Gawker also has a GREAT post about how cheating on your sick wife is an old political tradition - with John McCain front and center.

I posted this as a DailyKos diary which enraged a lot of people, and most of my comments there are being trolled out. What bothers me much more is this comment by Delaware Dem, whom I respect:


Paint all white lawyers with a broad brush.

Further, there is nothing misogynistic about having an affair. There may be something immoral about it. But I fail to see how John demonstrates his hatred of all women everywhere by having an extramarital affair.

Finally, that you believe the National Enquirer reveals you to be an idiot. Do not operate heavy machinery.

I did not paint all white lawyers with a brush - I noted that there is a pattern. Theres a difference between saying "People who behave in manner A are members of group B" and saying "members of group B behave in manner A" which I think is obvious.

Arguing that an extramarital affair - cheating on your sick wife, just like John McCain - is not inherently misogynistic is exactly the flaw in progressive thinking I was talking about above. Are we so blinded by our hero worship? Edwards' affair reveals him to see women - including is devoted wife of 30 years - as replaceable objects for his amusement. It does reveal volumes about his view of women. The honorable thing would have been to divorce his old wife and then marry the new one, not sneak around Beverly Hills hotels in secret. That Delaware Dem doesn't understand this is genuinely disturbing to me.

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I guess I'm a little disappointed that (1) you'd run so far so fast with an unflattering story about Edwards out of the Enquirer, Aziz, and (2) that you're apparently so eager to hang the "misogynist" label on him if the hotel ambush story is true.

Re (1): as hundreds of others have said by now, consider the source, and consider how few facts are incontrovertible so far:
(a) paternity? nope.
(b) inception before/after knowledge of Elizabeth's recurrence? nope.
(c) nature of Edwards' visit? nope.
(d) even the fact of Edwards' visit? call me in denial, but again, consider the source.

Re (2), I agree it would be extremely scummy thing to do, but I assert a "misogyny" label would have to presume the worst answer to (1b) in that respect.

It's probably not an argument worth having whether "misogyny" means quite what you seem to wish; I think it means something more like a hateful attitude towards all women all the time.

I'll turn this around, finally, and note that you've (correctly) suspected less-than-total allegiance among many lefty bloggers to your favorite this year, Obama. (For my part, I'd have preferred Gore or Edwards, though I preferred Obama to Hillary.) I'll concede without hesitation that if this story is true, Edwards has something to be ashamed of. But meanwhile, Obama did a 180 on FISA after a campaign pledge to the contrary, and a 180 on campaign financing after a campaign pledge to the contrary. Edwards can be ashamed before his wife; Obama should be ashamed before primary voters he cheated out of a fair comparison with competitors. And of the two, I know which I think is a more fit subject for public condemnation.


I accept the critique Thomas - I know I am out on a limb here but from reading the Enquirer story, the claims made are so specific and easily verifiable in due course that if the story is not true, then the NE is facing a major libel lawsuit. That said, I'll gleefully eat crow if it turns out to be false, because I still think that Edwards is the best Veep choice (on paper) and there's even a part of me asking, if Clinton could survive his infedility then why can't Edwards do likewise. Still, reality suggests that Edwards' career s over, and the liberal agend ain this contry is beter off for having this skeleton exploded in full glare now before it can do any damage to Obama.

To be frank I don't really see any evidence in teh enquirer story about teh paternity issue, but the fact that Edwards did have a rendezvous in secret with the woman in question seems pretty solid in terms of "gotcha" journalism (which I am not a fan of, mind you, but stopped clocks ...)

I'll grant you that the nature of Edwards' visit is also unproven, but if it's a perfectly innocous explanantion then Edwards can defend himself easily - and so far his camp has not even denied teh allegations, let alone respond with a rebuttal.

However, the very fact of Edwards' visit - unless the Enquirer is actually inventing the specific details, which would be monumentally foolish (this isnt the Bat Boy story here) - seems pretty robust. I hope I am wrong.

OK, I may have misused the word misogyny, perhaps simply "sexist pig" will do. Whether Edwards hates women, or just sees them as tool sfor his personal pleasure, is a distinction in fact but not a particularly exonerating one.

As far as Obama and FISA goes, let's have that debate separately. I have followed the story but I am not as convinced that Obama's position was unreasonable, nor that he did a true 180. Lay out the case for me and lets talk about it. However, I have been arguing since 2004 that Obama is not going to be the ideal Progressive candidate (and I have also disavowed the Progressive label in favor of simply Liberal). So I dont have as much of a deficit of expectation to close as many in te netroots did about FISA, or Iraq withdrawal (another issue on which i don't toe the netroots line). In fact Obama's rhetoric on the latter have really validated my instinctual feeling that Obama is seeing the big picture rather than playing foreign policy for a domestic prop, the way most politicians have until now.

I think you still have access, Thomas - how about a post on FISA, laying out your case for why it was bad and the evidence that Obama flipped? I am willing to be convinced.

But, I will disagree that Obama has more to be shamed about on FISA than Edwards does, because unless we assume Obama to be a truly positioning pol without genuine principle, his FISA position was the result of a belief that it would be the best thing for the nation. He may be wrong, but I dont think he isn't sincere. I dont see any redeeming intention in Edwards' actions, and frankly Edwards' very judgement is called into severe question. Edwards' actions (assuming, as I still hope isn't the case, that the Enquirer is correct) are that of hubris and frankly we've had dangerous levels of that in the White House for too long. Good riddance to him.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.