John Edwards

Submitted almost entirely without comment on the actual substance of the tale of events surrounding John Edwards crash-and-burn, except to say that if even half of what Andrew Young lays out in this article (and, I presume, in his book, though I’ve not read it and probably won’t), to say that Edwards was a sleazy character just doesn’t do it justice.

Of course, there’s the chance that someone who writes as well as Young does and was as entwined in this whole mess as closely as he was might have some scores to settle. Young even admits as much, but strangely, it’s the admission that Edwards ruined him and that he feels resentful about that fact which helps what Young has to say about Edwards sound less like the calculated (and possibly false or overstated) slings and arrows of a man with an axe to grind or a score to settle, and more like someone who just needs to get one of the worst experiences of his life off his chest, partly to do what he can to clear his own name, and partly because he knows the story he tells will simply not be told unless he does so, but mostly, above all, because he just wants closure on that chapter of his life.

Closure’s an overused, trite-sounding buzz-word, but read Young’s words (never published, as far as I can tell from just a quick Google search, in the US media), and tell me if you don’t think it might apply in this case. Here’s just a taste:

The next day, the senator called again. He wanted to find a “way out of this thing”. He talked about how he and John Kerry had lost by a few hundred thousand votes in Ohio in 2004 and said, “A black or a woman can’t win the general election.” Gradually, he came round to the real purpose of his call: he wanted me to issue a statement saying I was the father of Rielle’s baby, then disappear with her, Cheri and the kids for a luxury vacation until the election was over.

I was dumbfounded. How, I asked, was I meant to explain to my wife that I should confess to an affair I never had, claim an unborn child that was not mine and then bring her along with our family as we attempted to disappear? The senator appealed to my commitment to the cause and our friendship. When I said he was asking me to ruin my career and my ability to support my family, he said he would make sure I had a job in the future.

Dumbfounded, indeed. I was one of the people who thought John Kerry could’ve made a better pick in 2004, but wasn’t disappointed with Edwards. And when 2008 came around, the old, centrist, corporatist John Edwards of his Senate days seemed gone, replaced by a fiery populist who was talking some of the most progressive policies on the campaign trail. Much tougher and more progressive than Hillary Clinton, and even tougher than the Obama of the early campaign when it’s all about appealing to primary and caucus “base” voters. He could even almost match Obama’s gifts for oratory. I believed him, too; I thought that here was a man who’d taken his shots in the Kerry campaign, but who wasn’t tarnished with a big loss like Kerry was, and here was a guy who’d spent some time in the wilderness like Al Gore had, who’d come out of that time with a renewed sense of fighting for the people…but who was still “in the game,” unlike Gore. In late 2007 and early 2008, John Edwards seemed like he might just be the dark horse the Democrats needed to really make the strides necessary after eight ruinous years of George W. Cheney: less baggage than Hillary Clinton, better known and with a larger national profile than Barack Obama, and with ideas more strongly progressive than either of them. Not to mention the “ever-youthful” shtick that reminded so many of “Kennedy-esque” glory days of Democrats from the past.

But after reading Andrew Young’s article, I don’t even want to know what John Edwards would have looked like if he’d managed to edge out Obama in Iowa and perhaps managed to parlay that success into victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Any candidate (Democrat or Republican) who can do that pretty much assumes an aura of inevitability, for good reason. What would John Edwards have looked and sounded like in July or August of 2008, had he been the front-runner and presumptive nominee? In late September? I don’t know…and after reading Andrew Young’s words, I really don’t want to know. Because it’s occurred to me, as I’m sure it’s occurred to most other progressives who were partly or all-the-way in the Edwards camp in those early months, that any guy who could behave as selfishly, callously and above all, calculatedly as Edwards did with the people he supposedly loved the most would easily fit the mold of a politician who will tell the motivated liberal base voters whatever they wanted to hear in the early months and then simply turn on a dime and sell out to corporations while trying to court “Reagan Democrats” or even Republicans by running as little more than a Republican in Democrats’ clothes in the general election. And as President. I have no doubt whatsoever, after reading this article, that John Edwards was – is – entirely capable of doing exactly what Young so devastatingly depicts him doing to his family, friends and closest coworkers: using them as necessary for his own ends, and abandoning them if they became liabilities or even simply unnecessary to his own success or pleasure.

Yeah, I guess you could say I felt a genuinely sickening sense of betrayal, reading this article.