This Friday, August 8, 2008, Sen. John Edwards, once a Democrat presidential candidate, now a repentant philanderer, announced that he did indeed have an affair with a young lady who filmed his campaign.
According to an Associated Press front page story in the Journal Inquirer Edwards has “denied fathering a daughter born to the woman with whom he had the affair, and offered to be tested to prove it… After the story broke Friday, Edwards released a statement that said, 'In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment… I recognized my mistake and told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness. I was honest in every painful detail with my family. I took responsibility for my action in 2006, and today I take full responsibility publicly.'”
The cause of Edward’s infidelity was that ol’devil hubris, according to the AP report and Edwards’ statement: “In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.”
Edwards, bewitched by his own public appearance, regrets falling into an erotic pool, and if people want to beat up on him, that’s fine. He’s already beaten himself up.
Addressing the cancer question – though stricken with cancer, his valiant wife never-the-less campaigned for her cheating husband – Edwards’ wife said that the healing process was “oddly made easier” after she had been diagnosed with cancer in March 2007.
Some few remarks seem to be in order.
It was not that ol’devil hubris but those ol’devils Eros (think erotic) and Pan (think panic), the Greek Gods of sexual desire and free love, that drove Edward into the arms of the film-maker.
This sometimes happens among men and women. When they do not have attachments, we are trained to look the other way and put it all down to human emotion. In the post-Freudian period, we males delight in offering our wills as a blood sacrifice to the Ego, the Super Ego having shrunken in the post-Christian period to the size of a flea whose fierce bites are tolerable. In addition, women’s liberation has liberated the worst excesses of men and, all things else being equal, women.
The back-message of Edwards’ statement to the watchful media is: I’m human too; we all make mistakes. Couldn’t you find it in your heart to forgive me now that I have made a public affirmation of sorrow and repentance, and allow myself and my wife to recover and heal?
The healing process has now begun. Could you please get out of the way?
This is the usual trajectory in the case of straying politicians: fierce denials and assertions of moral rectitude; followed by the pursuit of the doubtful – in this case, moral Furies from the National Inquirer, whose two reporters followed Edwards to his liaison with the film-maker, who may or may not (Greta Van Susteren will find out) have born him a child; followed by the shock of discovery in the respectable media; followed by abject remorse and the vagrant hope that it will all go away, so that the principle culprit can resume his political career unattended by the Furies.
Such miracles happen: A drowning in Chappaquiddick was not a bar to Edward Kennedy’s long and vigorous career in the U.S. Senate; so far, Sen. Larry Craig has survived a bathroom incident in Washington; Barney Frank, who lent his house out to a procurer of sexual favors, is still plying his trade in the U.S. House of Representatives. And the countryside is littered with the corpses of discarded wives thrown over for prettier, richer women. Current and former presidential candidates John McCain, Chris Dodd and Edward Kennedy all did it. The names of U.S. Congressmen who did it would fill a small phone book.
It cannot be convincingly argued that representatives who blithely toss their ex-wives on the ash heaps of their marriage beds do not represent their constituents, since the divorce and marriage in the United States are approaching parity.
So, what’s the problem with a little fooling around in the age of liberation provided, as Edwards insists, there is no outstanding issue (read: baby) involved? And even if the worship of Eros and Pan has produced and out-of-wedlock child, why is there a problem so long as the cheater (think Jesse Jackson) supports the child?
If Edwards had made these arguments, he would have been at least plausible, though his political career would have bitten the dust.