If I were one of these conspiracy nuts which, of course, I'm not, I might almost think I smell the thorny hand of Karl Rove behind the Enquirer's dogged, intrepid stalking of former senator, and presidential hopeful, John Edwards, but the only other public figure to have an adjective made out of his name since Machiavelli , Rove, has had way too much on his plate lately sabotaging the careers of governors like Don Siegelman, and skirting congressional subpoenas, to dabble in destroying a potential president's career. That said, the timing of the Edwards revelation can only be described as Rovian.
That it's taken more than a year for a national press that now grovels more than diehard paparazzi to declare the adultery witch hunt over proves that the technological revolution isn't all it's cracked up to be. After all, how long did it take to destroy the careers of other prospective presidential candidates like Gary Hart, Ted Kennedy and, better still, a sitting president, Bill Clinton? And, anyone who doesn't see parallels between John Edward's forced confession of adultery and those other chaps needs to have their eyes checked.
But, the larger question here is why we don't force our presidents to confess their sins in shame when they lie about the number of troops in Vietnam (LBJ), and why we invaded Iraq (GWB?) Maybe because that doesn't sell as many papers, or as much advertising, as anything having to do with sex. And, if that's the case, shame on you, America, for bringing down another good man for the crime of being human, and being flawed.
When asked whether John Edwards can forget about his future in politics, even his former campaign manager, David Bonior, turned against him: "You can't lie in politics and expect to have people's confidence." Excuse me, but what do you call what a former Republican president did, while vice president under Ronald Reagan? What do you call it when George H.W. Bush looked a CBS anchor, and camera, indeed, looked America, straight in the eye and said he knew nothing about the illegal sale of arms to the Contras in exchange for release of hostages in Iran?
Excuse me, but what do you call it when, a couple of decades later, another president lied to Congress, and the American people, about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, took us to war without a formal declaration of war, and one that has cost the lives of many thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians?
To the contrary, it seems to me that one can lie very well in politics and have the people's confidence, but that one must choose one's lies carefully. In this country of the Puritans, by the Puritans, and for the Puritans, a nation that has shown the World Health Organization, and HIV/AIDS clinics in Africa and Asia, that ideology comes before survival by requiring abstinence-only sex education in order to receive funding, a country that countenances "ghost ships," and the suspension of habeas corpus is appalled because a candidate who could talk about "morals" is a man, after all, and not a god.
But, if we're going to talk about morals, let's start with what kind of morals it takes to knowingly, wilfully, and deliberately send more than 4100 service men and women to their death while lying about the pretext for battle.
Yes, how can one not feel for Elizabeth Edwards but, more importantly, how can one not feel for our country with yet another promising political career dashed by the "dangerous liaison" mindset that has come to be characteristic of Rovian politics. John Edwards now joins the lofty company of Teddy Kennedy and Gary Hart, both of whom outspoken advocates of the rights of working people, and subjected to excorciation by the mainstream media because they made the mistake of being human. Would anybody even know where Chappaquiddick is if Ted Kennedy happened to have been alone in the car? What's more, why should anybody care? Why is it anybody's damn business what a public figure does in his or her private time?
We may not be sure of much, but you can bet on one thing -- if there is a planet 200 years from now, and America is still an independent country and not annexed to China, we're going to look awfully silly to posterity for impeaching a president who lied to a grand jury about an act of adultery on taxpayer's time while giving a president like George W. Bush an honorable discharge from public service at taxpayer expense.
What's tragic here is not marital infidelity, but that we've so trivialized government by our puritanical preoccupation with the private lives of public figures that presidents like Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy wouldn't run to Canada before running for office. And, the only "cheating" we need concern ourselves with is the fact that we're cheating ourselves.
Of course, it would be unthinkable, and glib, not to suggest that those in high profile positions recognize that they are held, by choice, to a higher standard, and greater scrutiny than the rest of us, but to witness men like Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York, who, apart from his dubious business transactions, also had his finger on the pulse of Wall Street corruption, and credit card fraud, reduced to rubble, and humiliated, is a disgrace to the foundation upon which this great country was built.
To think that the importance of John Edwards' message about eradicating poverty, special interests, working toward economic equity, and restoring dignity to the working man and woman, in this country, has been systematically disabled by the predators of prurience who pretend to trade in virtue, is an insult to the American dream.
An extramarital dalliance never stopped a European president from being reelected. Reportedly, one French prime minister's mistress stood only inches away from his wife at his funeral. It's only in America, home of Salem Bay, witch hunts, and Puritans, that we drag our candidates over the coals for marital infidelity while making them heroes for bombing Libya, and Hiroshima. That shame doesn't accompany high crimes and misdemeanors will make us a source of egregious embarrassment for generations to come.
Oh, and there are some who might argue that this country would be a lot better off today if Richard Nixon could have come up with better things to do at the Watergate Hotel.
Follow Jayne Lyn Stahl on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaynelynstahl