Elizabeth Edwards has built up a tremendous reserve of public support and respect. It's earned. She's smart, accomplished, articulate and has suffered far more than her share of personal tragedy. But she also chose to launch a celebrity (sorta) tell-all book called Resilience that covers her husband John Edward's affair and so she opens herself and her relationship up as a subject of public discussion.
So let's be clear; in equal proportion to her victimhood, Elizabeth Edwards also aided and abetted her husband in deceiving Democratic voters on an unprecedented scale.
She helped her husband commit an odd sort of fraud - taking money from thousands of people under false premises, in a sort of personality Ponzi scheme that would have made Bernie Madoff blush. Elizabeth Edwards knew that narrative of the Edwards's personal relationship was a winner with voters and she helped spin it. She was an active part of his campaign and not just for policy reasons.
Electoral politics is, after all, only partially about policy. Elizabeth humanized John Edwards. He's a guy who oozed smarmy, insincere, self-centered lawyer but he's married to Elizabeth, so he might be okay. Elizabeth wasn't a trophy wife; she was a real woman and their love affair story was spiked with elements that gave Edwards more depth, a sense of a man deeper than first appearances.
Together, John and Elizabeth spun the stories in an effort to gain donations and votes. The details they told were true. Anniversaries at the fast food restaurant Wendy's. Her battle with cancer. The unfathomable loss of their son. These facts were and are real but they served as misdirection to another reality - that John Edwards had undertaken an emotional and sexual affair with a campaign worker named Rielle Hunter.
She knew that her husband had used campaign money to pay his mistress to travel with him. In her book, she apparently claims that she urged her husband to end his Presidential bid...but she kept helping him raise money. She allowed their personal narrative to be the subject of story after story and even stepped it up when her cancer returned.
I've spoken with Edwards supporters who gave him thousands of dollars of hard earned money because they believed in him. Some even convinced other family members to donate to Edwards. They felt betrayed and angry. Had they known the truth, their money could have gone to other candidates or other causes or just stayed in the bank.
The story of the Edwards affair isn't finished, though. There are still lingering lies and a woman waiting and a baby with no father listed on the birth certificate. Those don't seem to be any concern of Elizabeth Edwards's, either.
Given her entire situation - the children, the cancer, the ugly public nature of it all - I understand why Elizabeth might be inclined to believe John Edward's continued lies.
For reasons I've outlined in earlier pieces here at HuffPost, I believe that John Edwards met with Rielle Hunter at the Beverly Hills Hilton more than just the one time that he was caught. In other words, months after admitting the affair he had while running for President to Elizabeth, he met Hunter secretly at a hotel room, with her child present.
Why would he do this? The most obvious, non-conspiratorial answer is the simple one...he was still having an affair with Hunter even after his admission and the child is almost certainly his.
I'm the next act, waiting in the wings..
I'm an animal, trapped in your hot car...
I am all the days you choose to ignore.
You're all I need...you're all I need..
I'm in the middle of your picture....
Lying in the weeds....
Radiohead, All I Need
Rielle Hunter is reportedly broke, living with a friend and seems to be biding her time. She could have written her own book and it would probably be a more interesting read than Elizabeth's. But Rielle Hunter seems to be thinking long term. Their affair was sexual but more; she loved Edwards. She's got a a baby to take care of.
The donor's money is gone and Rielle waits but Elizabeth Edwards will publish a book and write blog posts on DailyKos and make appearances on talk shows. We will watch and read, too. This is America and that's what happens and that's what we do. It's sex and lies and tragedy and politics and soap opera and probably some royalties will go to a good cause so we can all feel better. A little better, anyway.
Follow Lee Stranahan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Stranahan