Next Stunt, Please!
Plus--Can I vote for McGovern?
4. Irresponsibility: How irresponsible was it to seek the party's nomination knowing that this scandal was lurking around, ready to explode? What if he'd won? Are we sure it wouldn't have been discovered by the McCain campaign before November? Rock stars get to behave this badly because they're only rock stars. Worst that happens is the band breaks up. What if Edwards actually got elected--and then the scandal was discovered when he was in office? Did Democrats enjoy the Lewinsky years?
5. The Coverup:If the scandal is true, it almost certainly means that during the campaign Edwards presided over an elaborate coverup involving at least a) having an aide wrongly claim paternity and b) having other aides go out and lie to reporters. It probably also included payments of money to cooperating parties and various familiar slurs on the character of the 'other woman,' Rielle Hunter. All this would obviously be germane to Edwards' fitness to hold any office, including clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Even if Edwards were to forswear all future public employment, there'd be an interest in documenting and publicizing his role in the coverup for the same reason we track down bank robbers 10 years after the crime--to deter others from pulling the same stunt in the future.
The only legitimate reason not to cover this scandal, it seems to me, is simple sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards--and I've gotten enough emails from anguished and angry members of the MSM to conclude, with Estrich, that it's the prime reason for the MSM blackout. True, I also suspect that if Mrs. Edwards were a conservative Republican, or even an unbeloved Democrat, the MSM might somehow find a way to overcome this compassionate sentiment. But that doesn't make it wrong. Reporters don't have to print everything. You could conclude that the need to protect Mrs. Edwards her children is so great, the karma of Enquiring so bad, that all of the obvious, public-interesty reasons for covering the story should be thrown out the window. And if John Edwards were already so damaged that in practice he'd never get a significant public office even if he wants one, I might agree (even if that meant sacrificing the deterrent effect of full exposure).
But that's a point that clearly hasn't been reached yet, at least not while most Americans are being kept in the dark about what, exactly, has led to Edwards' mysterious disappearance from the political oddsmakers' charts. A man arrogant and ambitious enough to think he can run for president posing as a loyal husband while keeping his second family secret, even as he visits his mistress in a famous hotel that is hosting a convention of journalists, will be arrogant and ambitious enough to keep hiding under the shield of his wife's illness until he can attempt a comeback-- if given the chance.
The alternative, it seems to me, is to let affection for Mrs. Edwards suck journalists into a Print-the-Legend world where they must spend their time burnishing--or at least accepting--the story powerful people and institutions want them to tell, the story of the wonderful Edwards marriage, rather than figuring out and telling readers the truth. If I wanted to be in that business I'd be a publicist.
**--For purposes of this item, I'm assuming we're reaching the next-to-final stage of the natural progression in cases like this: 1) Too horrible and shocking; it can't possibly be true; 2) It's not true; 3) You can't prove it's true; 4) Why are you trying to prove it's true? 5) It's disgusting that you've proved it's true; 6) What's the big deal anyway? ... 10:15 P.M. link
The LAT is more like Daily Kos than it wants to admit (and vice versa): The Daily Kos has banned longtime blogger Lee Stranahan for writing calm, clear-headed posts assessing the evidence in the John Edwards scandal--posts saying things like:
Edwards needs to clear this up so we can get on with the business of forgiving him and moving on. As progressives, we need to rise above the false choice between blind judgment and blind apathy. We're the reality based community, remember?
Photograph of John McCain on the Slate home page by Alex Wong/Getty Images.