Tyrion Lannister

Tears for Affairs

Filed By Tyrion Lannister | August 11, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics

Having been on vacation last week, I know I'm a little late on this issue, but, as someone who supported John Edwards during the Democratic primary, I feel obligated to announce that I'm disgusted by the situation between Edwards and Rielle Hunter. Cheating on your partner is an awful thing to do in the first place, but it's not unusual for politicians or people and I could probably forgive that.

Other commentators have suggested the more disturbing issue is that Edwards attempted to secure the Democratic nomination knowing full well that his affair would very likely be unearthed at some point and torpedo his campaign and the Democratic party in the fall. The fact that he pushed forward seems like a brazenly irresponsible and selfish thing to do -- the sort of thing that would damage all of the progressive interests John Edwards claimed to be so passionate about. This in turn, suggests that John Edwards was always a self-promoting phony, someone whose enthusiasm for "poverty relief" was always a contrivance to advance his political career.

I think this criticism misses the mark slightly on two fronts: (1) I think its uncharitable to suggest that John Edwards can't be both a sleazy scumbag and someone who cares deeply about poverty issues. People are frequently complicated in precisely this way. (2) Even if Edwards' advocacy was completely fabricated, I think his presence in the Democratic primary still pulled the other candidates to the left in a way that was good for his issues. In other words, even if John Edwards' leftward lurch was a contrivance and even if an actual Edwards nomination would have been disastrous, the practical effect of his presence in the Democratic field was still net-positive for progressives. His status as a lying, cheating, scummy guy doesn't change that.

All that said, I find myself feeling even more disgusted with Edwards because his "confession" was so transparently inadequate. As I understand it, there is some underlying truth to the National Enquirer story and John Edwards was very likely at a hotel at 2:00 AM visiting Rielle Hunter. I don't understand how that can be squared with Edwards' current claim that he terminated the affair in 2006 and is not the father of Hunter's child. If he wasn't (a) having sex with Hunter or (b) visiting his child, what was he doing in that hotel room? Frankly, if the Enquirer story has any truth at all, I can't really imagine a scenario in which Edwards is telling the truth now.

Meanwhile, in the department of "Shut the hell up already", today Clitonite Howard Wolfson bitches that if Edwards had responsibly admitted the affair before running or had never run in the first place, Hillary would be the nominee. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com explains why that's nonsense, but, beyond that, I'm not really sure what Wolfson's point is. Any number of counter-factual scenarios could have landed Hillary with the nomination. Some even involve mastodons, I'm told.

In any case, you should listen to Camera Obscura's lovely and oddly appropriate, "Tears for Affairs" off of their 2006 Let's Get Out of This Country.

Tear For Affairs - Camera Obscura

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You're right, Tyrion- Edwards can be a sleaze and still be sincere in his efforts against poverty.

My big issue with Edwards now is the fact he kept crowing about how marriage was a "sacred institution" between a man and a woman during the primaries. To me, his stance against marriage equality and this affair makes him a bigger scumbag than anything else. Obviously his marriage wasn't that "sacred."

I don't care about the affair. That's a private thing between Elizabeth and John.

What I care about is the coverup. He paid Hunter, who was a novice film maker, over $100k out of his campaign funds in a couple months to make a few youtube videos. He could have gotten a more experienced videographer for less money. As someone who gave hundreds of dollars and raised over a thousand more from others, I feel like my time and effort and cash went to buying off his mistress.

I also share your fear about him being a phony. Last week he shut down his College for Everyone program in North Carolina. Of course, this program started in 2006, and could easily have been a prop for his White House run. And just before he admits the affair and cover-up, just when his presidential hopes evaporate possibly forever, he pulls the plug.

I also agree with you that his presence in the primary was a positive thing. Without him, I believe the race between Obama and Clinton would have been about who can out-centrist the other. Instead, they talked about things like universal health care, ending the occupation of Iraq, etc.

To sum it up, I'm glad John Edwards ran in the primaries, and I'm even happier he isn't the nominee.