"You do it yourself, that's what really hurts..." - Radiohead, Just
As I write this, we're just a couple of hours into the official mainstream media phase of the John Edwards scandal and I'm already surprised. Something has happened that I didn't anticipate.
I've lost respect for Elizabeth Edwards.
As I've said previously, I admired both of the Edwards prior to this. Like most people I especially liked and admired Elizabeth Edwards. Even when I believed that Edwards was hiding something, I assumed Elizabeth was a victim. Now, that's changed.
The John Edwards interview -- which he states will be his very last comment on the subject -- hasn't aired yet but we do have a statement from Elizabeth Edwards. Ironically (to me, anyway) she posted it on the popular liberal blog The Daily Kos. The one upshot from her statement is that she knew about Edward's affair prior to his run for office.
I'm not assuming bad motives. I believe that the Edwards are both sincere in their stated positions about poverty, health care and other issues. I can even believe that the reason they wanted Edwards to become president was to promote that agenda. To the extent that's true, I totally agree with their ends but their means were so shortsighted, reckless, and potentially damaging to their own agenda that they can't be ignored.
Just taking the Edwards current statements at their words, I am left with a very uncomfortable truth -- both John and Elizabeth Edwards cynically used their marriage as a means to help John Edwards win an election. Right now, they are hoping that the emotional goodwill that they built up from their supporters will carry them through.
I'm sure I'll get some angry comments here but if you're an Edwards supporter, let me put this bluntly; if you gave John and Elizabeth Edwards time, money, support, or goodwill, they played you.
They made a conscious decision to make their relationship a focus throughout the campaign. That emotional goodwill you feel for them? They not only let you feel, they took actions and made statements specifically so you would feel it.
Then when the rumors first surfaced, they made the worst decision of all; they decided to lie about it and to keep lying about it for months. They lied in a way that made the people who were telling the truth look like the real liars. They lied in a way that turned their supporters into attack dogs. They only started to tell the truth when John Edwards was caught at the Beverly Hills Hilton and even now both John and Elizabeth Edward are calling the people who caught him the liars. That's the definition of shameless.
It didn't have to be that way.
I am fully convinced that if there was just a short affair with Rielle Hunter in 2006, John Edwards could have run for President eventually. Just not in 2008. Elizabeth Edwards shouldn't have supported his bid for the White House and she especially shouldn't have helped him promote the story about what a great husband he was. Elizabeth Edwards as a wife, friend, and adviser should have told her husband emphatically and in no uncertain terms to wait and to get the story of the affair out in the open as soon as possible.
Imagine if the affair story had been revealed back in early 2007. Some people, myself included, wouldn't have cared much in the first place. Others would have forgiven Edwards an affair in four or eight years, especially if Edwards filled that time with good works and devotion to his family.
Because I believe in the Edwards agenda, I still want to believe in the Edwards as people. Right now, though, I don't see either of them as victims of anything but their own ambition.