by Teh Nutroots | Okay, we've dissed Edwards. We've said what there is to say, i.e. [accompanied by the sound of a newspaper whapping him on the nose]:
BAD BAD BAD! [::whap::] How could you do it to Elizabeth? [::whap::] How could you do it to your supporters? [::WHAP WHAP::] How could you encourage us to vote for you, thereby encouraging us to vote for a candidate who could scuttle the whole election? (here) [::whappity whap whap::] How could you be such a hypocrite? (here) [whappity whappity WHAP WHAP WHAP]
Since he didn't win the nomination, he didn't inflict the harm---though it wasn't for the want of trying. So it's an issue, though not a major issue.
The New York Times raises the question of the media's "reticence" toward the no-longer-campaigning former Senator and his incurably ill wife. As noted below, the no-longer-campaigning Edwards isn't the only beneficiary of such reticence.
Joe Klein---working hard to redeem himself, but as usual failing to see the trees for the forest---says:
I never much liked John Edwards as a politician...and I guess we now know that he's a heel as a human being, too. But that doesn't mean his tawdry personal life is any of my concern. Consensual sex among adults isn't something that we in the media should bother about, except in extraordinary circumstances (say, the President is sharing a girlfriend with a Mafia Don). I thought the media suffered a sleazy nervous breakdown during the Lewinsky affair--although earlier in Clinton's presidency I wondered if his promiscuity reflected a basic indiscipline that had infected his Administration (Add: Clinton eventually proved me wrong). I didn't care whether Clarence Thomas watched porn films, if Newt Gingrich messed around...and I'm profoundly uninterested in what Larry Craig does in the loo.
So I think the mainstream media handled Edwards affair appropriately, for a change....
I'm not in favor of censorship. I am in favor of discretion and proportion. If the National Enquirer wants to go there, that's their business. I don't think Time Magazine should be in that business, and I'm proud we weren't. When the Lewinsky story broke, I wrote in the New Yorker: "This is an era that will be remembered more for the ferocity of its prosecutions than for the severity of its crimes." That still holds. (TIME; emphasis added)
On the subject of McCain, he adds:
I really don't care about the Senator's sex life. I do care about the fact that he is running a campaign filled with lies about his opponent's positions, a campaign that is conducted in a snarky, subversive tone that is entirely inappropriate to American politics.(TIME; emphasis added)
Not to be snarky or subversive, but since it's an issue for Edwards supposedly spelling the end of his career, let's do talk about McCain. And I say this not because I care---I don't---but because the "smuggery" (to borrow Blue Stockings' word) from the right and parts of the left is pissing me off.
Edwards probably wasn't the right person to bring this up, of course. According to The Politico, he said, ""What I was thinking was this was something that was personal to my own family," Edwards said, citing other public figures having survived extramarital affairs. He recalled, he said, having heard "John McCain talk about the mistakes that he’s made in his past with respect to his first marriage...I’m not the first person to do this," he said."
But of course, that sort of begs the question. That's not why people who supported him for president are upset. We're upset, John, by the cover-up, the lies, the denials, and the hypocrisy, and the fact that we wasted our time defending him only to end up looking like gullible morons.
At least that's the crux, as far as I'm concerned.
But if we're going to go on talking about Edwards---or about other erring Democrats, as QandO does---let's not forget about McCain, the candidate for the party of "family values," and Larry Craig, David Vitter, Mark Foley, etc., etc.
Weeks ago, The L.A. Times did some investigation into McCain background. It seems that McCain's decision to abandon his first wife, Carol, and marry Cindy fractured his long-standing friendship with the Reagans. The facts---as he himself concedes---are unpalatable and don't reflect well on him. But how many people do you know whose marriage/divorces wouldn't have to concede the same?
The Reagans rushed to help Carol, finding her a new home in Southern California with the family of Reagan aide Edwin Meese III and a series of political and White House jobs to ease her through that difficult time.
McCain, who is about to become the GOP nominee, has made several statements about how he divorced Carol and married Hensley that conflict with the public record.
In his 2002 memoir, "Worth the Fighting For," McCain wrote that he had separated from Carol before he began dating Hensley.
"I spent as much time with Cindy in Washington and Arizona as our jobs would allow," McCain wrote. "I was separated from Carol, but our divorce would not become final until February of 1980."
An examination of court documents tells a different story. McCain did not sue his wife for divorce until Feb. 19, 1980, and he wrote in his court petition that he and his wife had "cohabited" until Jan. 7 of that year -- or for the first nine months of his relationship with Hensley....
The senator has acknowledged that he behaved badly, and that his swift divorce and remarriage brought a cold shoulder from the Reagans that lasted years. (LA Times)
Christopher Beam adds some color to the tail of McCain's midlife crisis. Again though...not exactly an uncommon story, is it?
John McCain returned to the United States from Vietnam in March 1973. His wife, Carol, had been in a near-fatal car accident while he was gone. She was overweight, on crutches, and 4 inches shorter than when McCain had left. McCain ended up divorcing Carol for Cindy Hensley, his current wife. Carol has remained mostly silent on her marriage to John, except for one notable comment to a McCain biographer: “John was turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again.” (Slate)
Apparently McCain's wife was taken completely by surprise.
Carol McCain was distraught at being blindsided by her husband's intention to end their marriage, said her friends in the Reagan circle.
"They [the Reagans] weren't happy with him," Fitzwater said. Carol McCain "was this little, frail person. . . . She was brokenhearted." (LA Times)
Sad, but not exactly unique. I am not exactly in a position to judge McCain. I might argue that my own transgressions included more mitigating factors, but that's pretty subjective, yeah? How many divorced people really are in a position to criticize?
So why the gloating over Edwards? Should he not get some points for sticking with his wife?
Why isn't first cheating on a spouse, then abandoning the spouse worse than sticking it out and trying to keep the family together? [Think of Fox News' defense of Giuliani.]. It almost seems as if adultery that happened a long time ago or ended in marriage is considered to be less reflective of the person's character. Why? Does the importance of the pain inflicted at the time count less as time rolls on? Does being faithful to one woman vitiate one's betrayal of another?
Is there a statute of limitations on adultery? Why the media fascination with Edwards' but not with McCain's? Certainly there are some inconsistencies in what McCain has said about the ending of his marriage and what a recent investigative report alleges.
The Carpetbagger Report addressed The L.A. Times piece and McCain's adultery in early July.
We learned that McCain turned his back on his wife after she was seriously injured in a car accident, committed adultery, and left the mother of his children when he found a younger, wealthier woman. Worse, we also learned that McCain didn’t tell the truth about this in his own memoir. McCain insisted that he was separated from his first wife before he began dating his second wife. That’s not true. McCain also insisted he’d been divorced for months before remarrying. That wasn’t true, either. (In fact, the LAT reported, “McCain obtained an Arizona marriage license on March 6, 1980, while still legally married to his first wife.....
So, let’s take a moment to step back, and analyze the media frenzy we’ve seen over the last 24 hours, as the political world comes to grips with McCain’s controversial personal life and his willingness to be less than truthful about it:
(picture tumble weeds rolling by)
With respect to McCain, they're still rolling.
Today, CR pointed out that if adultery really is an issue, McCain should have a lot to lose---only a lot of Edwards' critics haven't yet worked this out.
Indeed, for all of the media frenzy associated with yesterday’s revelations, this is really a tale of two affairs, one that news outlets want to hype, and one that news outlets want to ignore. One involves a senator who left public office four years ago, and who is not currently seeking any public office. The other involves a sitting senator who is about to become the Republican nominee for president. Both have admitted extra-marital affairs, and both have been dishonest about the circumstances surrounding their messy private lives.
And yet, one is a huge story, and one is a subject that is largely verboten in our public discourse. (emphasis added0
But...there's that double standard: "[A]s far as the media was concerned when Bill Clinton was running for president, adultery counted as a character issue. Maybe reporters got burned out on the subject, but it creates a glaring double standard — a Democrat guilty of infidelity is a major news story; a Republican guilty of infidelity deserves a pass." (CR; emphasis added)
Christopher Beam at Slate writes:
For the most part, the media have politely skirted around this episode of McCain’s life. (Not to mention other unflattering moments.) For one thing, it’s long past. McCain has since developed a reputation for credibility and transparency. (Post-Keating Five, that is.) And, unlike Edwards, he told the truth about his deviance. "My marriage's collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity,” McCain wrote in his autobiography. “The blame was entirely mine."
But with Edwards’ infidelity front and center, that could change. In recent weeks, McCain’s ads have taken a turn for the personal.... The Obama camp has never publicly raised McCain’s marital issues, nor would it. But insinuation, coupled with euphemisms about “trust” and “commitment,” can go a long way.....The Edwards news even gives McCain’s detractors a convenient pretext to raise the subject. So you heard about Edwards ditching his sick wife? Wait till you get a load of McCain …
Again I note...the test for whether adultery is a "character issue" seems to be whether the erring (Republican) husband abandoned his wife to marry his partner in adultery/whether the adultery occurred a long time before.
That doesn't make much sense to me. I'm not particularly inclined to judge McCain---or to care what he got up to 30 years ago---but the focus on Edwards does raise this question: Why do we care?
I care about Edwards' infidelity only because (1) I supported him for president and now am forced to contemplate with horror what would have happened if he'd won; (2) he seems to have engaged in an elaborate cover-up; and (3) I feel bad for Elizabeth.
McCain was honest about his divorce, but---as the previous texts reflect---only up to a point. He seems to have tried to sink or conceal some of the facts. That's probably human nature. I don't blame him.
But with that in mind, I probably need to reconsider my attitude toward Edwards, who isn't running for office at all.
[And as Damozel asked earlier today, why aren't we talking about the Keating Five? Surely that shouldn't be off limits).
Nobody...ever mentions Keating 5. Why? I'll mention it now: Keating 5. Why should it be off limits? It was a real, honest-to-God scandal and something that happened. Even if he redeemed himself (as some say), still: Keating 5. I know lots of people who haven't forgotten it, starting with my mom, who---though she's always voted Republican---says she can't bring herself to vote for either candidate.]
Memeorandum has the tasty bloggenfreude here..