Friday, May 08, 2009

Swindled by John and Elizabeth Edwards

It's Mother's Day weekend and I wish I were writing about flowers and sweet tributes.

But with all the hoopla this week about Elizabeth Edwards' new book Resilience, in which she tells her side of the story about John's affair, I'm stuck thinking about how angry I am at both of the Edwardses. John primarily, for embarking a destructive, narcissistic path that could have jeopardized the 2008 election for the Democrats, but also Elizabeth for continuing to support his campaign after John's first incomplete confession about his affair with Rielle Hunter. How calculating was it that John "confessed" just after announcing his candidacy, making it harder for Elizabeth to say we have to stop this campaign now? Still, she should have insisted then and there for all of our sakes that he shut it down.

I am taking this personally because I was an early supporter of Edwards' 2008 run, before Barack Obama announced his candidacy. Edwards lives in my home town, and many people whom I admired said he was the real deal. The groundwork for the primaries got into full swing early on here, 2006 if not before. So I made significant personal donations and supported the campaign. What really fries me is that I also encouraged friends and family to contribute. It stings to know I put my personal endorsement behind someone who was such a fraud. I'd really like to get that money back for my friends and family.

I met Rielle Hunter once, June 21, 2006, when I was invited to attend a Dave Matthews Band concert with John Edwards, his daughter Cate, some friends and a small group of campaign supporters. Rielle was there at the backstage reception, introduced as a filmmaker working with the campagin. I think she had just recently arrived in North Carolina. She seemed nice, maybe a little shy or stand-offish, it was hard to tell. Little did we know that she was starring in her own soap opera rather than documenting the campaign.

This whole experience has been a depressing dose of real-world cynicism. When I meet people, I want to accept them at face value. I hate the idea that when I meet a young-ish, hot-ish female campaign worker, I might now think, "Yeah, is she really just a groupie with a token job?"

John's hypocrisy and hubris are astonishing. Power is intoxicating and makes people think the rules don't apply to them. I think there was a belief in the Edwards family, and the campaign, that John was an exceptional human being and the American people could not be deprived of his leadership, no matter what his personal failings were. Bull. That's awfully like the kind of deluded thinking that the Bush administration operated on for eight years.

Elizabeth's interview with Oprah was just sad. Elizabeth has every right to hate Rielle, but there is a child involved (whom Elizabeth keeps calling "it") who deserves to know who her father is. There still seems to be a lot of denial going on, an understandable hope that things are not as bad as she fears them to be, but also a whole lot of wishful thinking that the reality of John fathering a child either does not exist, or somehow would not affect her life directly. (Rebecca Traister wrote very eloquently about this on Broadsheet this morning.)

And what does it say about John, and his campaign staff, that after Rielle hit on John the first time they met, they awarded her a lucrative freelance job that allowed her to travel with the campaign?

Part of why I am drawn in to this story is that I should have known better to be taken in by him. It was exciting to get to know a candidate, and I bought the idea of him as a loving family man. Elizabeth grounded him, gave him substance. But there were signs that this campaign was not for me, and I wish I had heeded them earlier. When I saw their completed 28,000 square foot mansion, I should have thought, "This is completely inconsistent with the theme of fighting poverty," rather than "Well, if he's elected President, this would be the Southern White House." The campaign staff, especially Andrew Young (who is the person claiming to have fathered Rielle's baby) were fond of saying, "You're family," when I knew we were really just donors.

Is this just a rant, or is there a lesson in here somewhere? We'll see where this leads next. Elizabeth has put the scandal squarely in the spotlight by writing her book. Yet the mainstream media seems to be downplaying the fact that a federal probe is underway investigating whether Edwards improperly used campaign funds to pay Hunter. That's the unwritten chapter in this saga which is likely far from over.

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Blogger natthedem said...

Great post. Thanks for capturing what so many of us are thinking.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people write far too many books!

As for John's type, I'm afraid too many of us could write books about the powerful, narcissistic, married men we fell for in one way or another. We can always sense the slime under the skids.

7:22 PM  

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