Elizabeth Edwards' Reality Problem

Elizabeth Edwards' Reality Problem

Elizabeth Edwards' Reality Problem

A mostly political weblog.
May 11 2009 12:20 AM

Elizabeth Edwards' Reality Problem

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"Elizabeth is not really a member of the reality-based community." Melinda Henneberger wrote an informative but ... incomplete look  "inside the Edwards marriage"  for Slate in 2007.  The scales have now fallen from Henneberger's eyes! In an excellent post-Oprah column , she outlines Elizabeth Edwards' "surreal" structure of denial and her drive for publicity:  


The bottom line in Elizabeth World is that "I have a husband who adores me, who's unbelievable with my children, who's provided for us in ways we never could have imagined.'' 

"He's fed you,'' Oprah puts in. "He has,'' Elizabeth agrees.

One of the things she feels he's given her is light - and spotlight. In explaining why it was important to her that "this person's'' name not be mentioned, she says that anyone who would "work at destroying my family and my home in order to get in that light, I'm really not interested in them being in that light too much. It's not about this woman. It's about this family.''

So, get out of my shot?

Of course, without Rielle Hunter Elizabeth wouldn't have this big a spotlight. ... Henneberger also offers more evidence that one purpose of Elizabeth Edwards' seemingly destructive self-exposure is indeed to rehabilitate John ("'I think we're getting to a good place,' he says ...")  


When Oprah remarks that hmm, she doesn't know a lot of men who would run off to a hotel somewhere in the middle of the night to hold a baby that wasn't theirs, she repeats her husband's lie - or maybe he'd repeated hers: "Golly, then you don't know that many politicians. We do it all the time. Holding babies is what we do.''

Did Elizabeth Edwards really say that? Does she really think it? The really alarming thing would be if she does. [ Second thought: She can't possibly think it. That much self-delusion would be clinical. She's BSing. See Update below.**]

P.P.S.: I should have noted the impressively long period of tongue-tied fumfawing in Elizabeth Edwards' NPR interview after she is asked "Do your children have a sister?" Starts at around 6:38 . ...

** Update--Three Theories of E : Of course, Henneberger's thesis--that Elizabeth lives in a semi-delusional world of her own--can itself become a form of exculpation. Elizabeth's in heavy denial, poor thing! But I'd say that, at best, the jury is still out on whether Elizabeth Edwards is  1) deluded (e.g., she actually believes the crap about how John "doesn't know any more than I do'' about whether he's the father of Rielle Hunter's daughter); 2) pretending to be deluded (e.g. she knows the truth but she's damned if she's going to admit it on her book tour); or 3) in it up to her eyeballs (i.e. she knows what she's saying is BS, but she's still actively covering up for John to further his ambitions as much as possible, given the circumstances).

How would saying she doesn't know if John's the father advance his interests under #3? That's easy. John hasn't said he doesn't know if he's the father. He has vehemently denied, in his televised Nightline  "confession", that he could possibly be the father  because he had ended the affair long before. (" I know that it's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events, so I know it's not possible." ) Admitting that he might be the father, and that this might be OK with his wife, is a useful halfway house on the road to confronting voters with the likely truth (he's the father and he lied about it even in his "confession.") If you were a PR agent retained by the Edwardses, this could well be the strategy you'd come up with.


That Elizabeth, in her current tour of interviews, doesn't even grapple with what now looks like his big Nightline lie --that he couldn't be the father--even as she substantively concedes it (by allowing that he could ) gives support to view #3, no? Why isn't she more annoyed he lied on  Nightline (and, presumably, to her)? Why ignore it? Come to think of it, Elizabeth herself once flat out denied, in one of her earlier damage control efforts , that John had fathered the child. Is delusion--at least non-clinical delusion--really the most plausible explanation for the seamless, unremarked shift in Elizabeth's own line---from righteous allegations of "wrongly alleged" to the solipsistic "whatever the facts are it doesn't change my life"? The shift fits awfully comfortably into the PR template for political survival famously sketched out by James Boyd--'Admit what is known. Deny what is unknown ....'

That MSM interviewers don't confront her with these contradictions says something too. ... Even Henneberger may have a few scales left to fall. ..  9:36 A.M.


Limits of the Groucho Marx Principle: The Vanity Fair /Bloomberg party after the White House Correspondents' Dinner was so exclusive  that nobody wanted to go. I think there's a Yogi Berra quote in there somewhere. ...

P.S.:  Isn't the point of the modern White House Correspondents' Dinner (assuming it has one) to generate a culture clash between Hollywood and Washington, to revel in the discomfitting celebrity/nerd interface ? That point's being lost as bigger and bigger celebrities demand (in some cases with good reason) exclusive partying room. At one event, they were penned in a narrow, brightly lit area as if they were prize animals on display. At least it was still awkward! Next year it will be less so, as Obama's D.C. becomes more skilled at star-greasing. .. 

It's almost enough to make you long for the old days when reporters competed to invite the most notorious newsmakers, not the biggest entertainers--when the reigning ethic was: "We Had Hitler at Our Table!" (Mike Kinsley's joke). ..

Update: Rachel Sklar enjoyed it all way too much  but is right about the importance of inviting lower-level sources. The event can also be a morale-booster for lower-level journalists (I can atttest). Both purposes are frustrated by Graydon Carter-style status segregation. ...   9:35 A.M.