I, like many people, find it nauseating that the professional political pontificators seem unable to contain their desire to apply horse-race analysis to Elizabeth Edwards' announcement that she has life-threatening cancer. From CNN, to Time Magazine to Rush Limbaugh, the national political chattering class has this week truly earned its well-deserved reputation as a group of people dominated by egomaniacal, self-absorbed freaks wholly and completely out of touch with even the most basic sense of decency.
Perhaps the most disturbing display of all, however, was 60 Minutes' Katie Couric. She spent most of her interview with the Edwardses behaving like a prosecutor, cross-examining them about why they are going forward with the presidential campaign. And when I say "interrogate" I mean interrogate. This was no ordinary interview - this was a televised guilt trip. She stated as fact to John Edwards that he is supposedly "putting your work first, and your family second." She also pulled the "some say" technique, claiming that an unnamed "some" say that in making this decision, Edwards is displaying "a case of insatiable ambition."
In pursuing this line of repeated questioning, of course, Couric ignored the pretty well-known psychological value of work during health care crises. She also ignored the fact that this is an immensely personal decision that does not require some multimillion-dollar journalist to perform a televised, Gitmo-style interrogation in order for viewers at home to glean the "news value." And most incredibly, she ignored her own behavior when her spouse was diagnosed with cancer.
That's right, Katie Couric's husband was diagnosed with cancer in 1997. I did a quick check of the transcripts for that year - and it's pretty clear that she kept working as the anchor for NBC's Today Show, if not full time, then pretty close to it.
I want to be extremely clear: That Couric continued to work while her husband was sick was entirely her and her family's personal decision. I'm not going to comment on the merits of that decision not because I think it was a bad one or a good one, but because it's AN ENTIRELY PERSONAL DECISION. Really, who the hell am I - and who the hell is anyone else - to question someone's decision to keep working during a family health crisis?
It's not up to me, or you or anyone else to decide whether such a decision for Katie Couric and her husband or John and Elizabeth Edwards is a good or bad decision, because it is an entirely personal decision, whether you are a national television anchor, a presidential candidate or anything else. I don't care if you are running for Supreme Leader of the Galaxy, your choice about whether to continue working at a time of a family health crisis should be entirely your own, without fear of journalists trying to "get a good scoop."
I wonder how Katie Couric would have reacted back in 1997 if people started interrogating her about why she was working during her husband's tragic illness? I'm guessing she wouldn't have reacted too kindly to it (which she shouldn't have - she would have every right to be pissed off). That's why I couldn't believe she of all people insisted on this line of interrogation. I was, frankly, amazed that the Edwardses didn't get up and walk out on the third or fourth question along these lines.
Couric at one point stated that "politics is a cynical business" and the Edwardses laughed as if to say "duh." It is a cynical business - but it is cynical because people like Katie Couric are so utterly caustic and so utterly devoted to "the scoop" that they insist on exploiting even the most personal of personal issues, regardless of their own personal experiences.