2008 August 09 Saturday
John Edwards Private Life Fair Game?

On Slate E.J. Graff complains about the media coverage of the John Edwards affair. Er, complaining about it is itself coverage.

I am incredibly annoyed that we have to waste any air, print, or pixel time on this. Why do I care about some dude's marriage and marital problemsunless he did something that in any way abuses public power? Comstockery, as I wrote in CJR once upon a time. Celebtainment and domestic voyeurism disguised as politics.

I just don't care what politicians do with their zippers, so long as their policies and votes are in order.

But the coverage is there because lots of people eat up this sort of thing. So Graff is really complaining about the public. Also, read the last sentence above carefully. A lot of Democrats were willing to defend Bill Clinton against assorted attacks based on his sexual escapades. But a fair number of them will attack a Republican on the same sorts of private activities because, well, in the minds of the attackers those Republicans do not have their policies and votes in order. So I'm skeptical when Democrats claim that private lives should not matter.

In the very next blog post on Slate Hanna Rosin argues basically that once people open up their private lives in order to promote themselves whatever happens in their private lives becomes fair game.

I find this Elizabeth Edwards post on Daily Kos excruciating. We are supposed to ride with this couple through her cancer diagnosis and relapse, through their son's death, their fertility treatments, and the rededication of their marriage, but then we are supposed to butt the hell out when the story line veers from the tragedy and heroics. If you believe in a system, you have to live and die by it. Elizabeth Edwards buys into the culture of overconfession.

I'd love to see politicians not use their families as props. But politicians trot out their families and use stories from their past because it works. One reason for this is that people want to look at the families of politicians as a way to help form a judgment about the whole person. Another reason is that a large fraction of the voters are pretty shallow in how they appraise candidates. Watching a political couple get interviewed on Larry King Live is as easy as watching Oprah. No need to think difficult thoughts about foreign countries or economics or the real causes of poverty.

There's an old say "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword". That's certainly the case with the political career of John Edwards.

Update: My assumption is that all Slate writers are Democrats. Maybe they have a house Republican. I don't know. But my guess is that Melinda Henneberger is a Democrat too. Well, Melinda's got zippo sympathy for Edwards.

When Elizabeth waited to tell you that she had a lump in her breast the size of a golf ball because she swore to God after Wade died she'd never give you any bad news ever again ... your way of repaying her was with the news you'd betrayed her, Cate, Wade's memory, and the babies she gladly took dangerous hormones to conceive? Got it.

Oh, and just one more: Remember all those holier-than-Bill Clinton remarks? So do I. If you think anyone in the universe believes your beyond Clinton-esque "I was standing on one foot when we did it so it doesn't count'' nonsense, or cares whether you used the L-word, or trusts for a single segundo that you're not the baby daddy? I think you're about to find out how cold it can get in summer, senator.

What I want to know: Where did the money come from to run the cover-up and support the mom and baby? I saw a tabloid publisher claiming it came from a big campaign donor. Do some of the people who invest in candidates lay out big money to cover up scandals? How far does this sort of thing reach and how much influence does this give the donors?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 August 09 09:33 AM  Media Critique


Comments
Dragon Horse said at August 9, 2008 1:39 PM:

"But a fair number of them will attack a Republican on the same sorts of private activities because, well, in the minds of the attackers those Republicans do not have their policies and votes in order."

That's wrong.

The common Democratic attack against Republicans has been because they made such a big deal of "family values" and many of the Republicans who were doing this in Congress were having sex with prostitutes, boys, young women, etc.

So the attack is not on the deed but on the hypocrisy.

The rest of what you said I pretty much agree with.

"Do some of the people who invest in candidates lay out big money to cover up scandals? "

The answer to that is: HEY YA...but Edwards is not a poor man, he is a multimillionaire in his own right. He got rich as a sleazy trial attorney. Edwards is a narcissist scum bag, actually he pretty much admitted that, at least he was for a time, in his confession of the affair. I do credit him for that self reflection...most politicians would never go that far. His campaign was a joke because it was exactly the opposite of his voting record of his one term in the Senate.

In these things I wish we were more like the French. No one would care in France much, there might be gossip, but the French realize that it would have nothing to do with the guy being able to do his job, so it is not a real public concern or issue unless he is using public monies to finance his affair.

I don't care who Edwards sleeps with. That's between him and his wife. I would imagine that it is hard to deal with the fact his wife is slowly dying and she turns to him but who does he turn to? I don't think affairs in these situations are uncommon. I also don't care who Republicans or any other politicians sleep with as long as it is consenting adults.

thegomezsymbol said at August 9, 2008 2:22 PM:

It is usually the Republicans that claim to hold the higher moral ground based on religious hypocrisy, hence the special treatment.

Ned said at August 9, 2008 3:48 PM:

They're all scum, whether "family value" Republicans such as Newt Gingrich (extramarital affairs) or Mark Foley (homosexual affairs) or "defenders of women's rights" Democrats such as John Edwards, Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy, who used women as disposable sex objects (and, in the case of Kennedy, one did get permanently disposed of). The hypocrisy is just nauseating. I know a very good argument can be made that this sort of stuff is private and shouldn't be reported. This used to be the case - for example, the media were quite familiar with President Kennedy's and Johnson's numerous affairs but chose to ignore them (they also ignored Kennedy's serious health problems). Nonetheless, the rules have changed, and everyone knows it. If Edwards was stupid enough to have an affair while running for president and arrogant enough to think he could get away with it, we don't want to have him as our leader.

Randall Parker said at August 9, 2008 6:00 PM:

Dragon Horse, thegomezsymbol,

I think it is more a function of the voters rather than of positions taken by individual Republican candidates. I do not think a Democrat from Mississippi could win reelection in a conservative district if he was found to be having an affair. Similarly, I do not think that John Edwards could get elected to the Senate again from South Carolina.

Dave said at August 9, 2008 6:01 PM:

No, hypocrisy doesn't explain the difference in the way the media treat Dems and Republicans on the issue. John Edwards also ran as an All-American whos father worked in a mill (working class) family-man and put his wife out there on the campaign in the early stages.

Dragon Horse said at August 9, 2008 6:56 PM:

"I think it is more a function of the voters rather than of positions taken by individual Republican candidates. I do not think a Democrat from Mississippi could win reelection in a conservative district if he was found to be having an affair. Similarly, I do not think that John Edwards could get elected to the Senate again from South Carolina."

Randall:

I do agree with this.

black sea said at August 9, 2008 8:04 PM:

"Similarly, I do not think that John Edwards could get elected to the Senate again from South Carolina."


Edwards was a Senator from North Carolina.

z said at August 9, 2008 8:05 PM:

There needs to be a paternity test done on the kid. That child DESERVES to know who its daddy really is. By not being willing to do this for that CHILD, Edwards is being cruel to a young person that he may have created----an ultimately despicable act.


John Edwards wife was battling cancer, and he was screwing around on her. These are not the qualities I want in a potential vice president, president, senator, mayor, or dog catcher. He needs to go back into trial lawyer and swim with his fellow sharks again.

The National Enquirer scooped the media because the media didn't want to know, especially the LA Times who even told its bloggers not to cover it. Sickening. Political Correctness self-censoring unpopular stuff.

HellKaiserRyo said at August 10, 2008 12:06 AM:

Well, at least John Ewards was defeated in the primaries. I wonder if it would be better for liberalism if Barack Obama lost. I rather have McCain take the heat for peak oil.

Randall Parker said at August 10, 2008 8:46 AM:

HKR,

I really must insist that your party win this year. Surely applying the liberal philosophy to governance is just the educational experience this country needs.

HellKaiserRyo said at August 10, 2008 10:35 AM:

What? (I'll assume you are being sarcastic.) I do not know what you mean by "liberal" in that post, but what is different from American liberalism and European social democracy? I thought liberalism is supporting "a series of social programs informed by a vague egalitarian spirit." In Europe, it doesn't seem to cause disaster or serious declines in standard of living. But if Europe is experiencing problems, I'll blame it on multiculturalism instead of policies that redistribute income.

As for me, I think I prefer a person who will implement stricter immigration policies and possibly deport some people instead of Obama. After that, I would have less qualms with liberal policies.

Randall Parker said at August 10, 2008 11:19 AM:

HKR,

No, I am not being sarcastic.

It is not clear to me which victor will be worse in this election.

On the one hand, McCain has fought much harder for immigration amnesty than Obama has. But Obama's party is for it. Which will push harder for amnesty for illegals?

If McCain loses then the Republicans get the punishment they deserve. Also, McCain doesn't get to invade more countries. But maybe he won't be able to invade anyway since Congress is a lot more leery of foreign adventures than it was in 2002.

Obama will certainly push racial preferences to a greater extent than McCain. But pushing a debate about race into the center of American politics might not work out the way he envisions. Most American try not to think too much about race. But suppose they start thinking and talking a lot about it. What conclusions will they reach? Perhaps conclusions not favorable to the racial spoils lobby.

Randall Parker said at August 10, 2008 12:22 PM:

HKR,

No, I am not being sarcastic.

It is not clear to me which victor will be worse in this election.

On the one hand, McCain has fought much harder for immigration amnesty than Obama has. But Obama's party is for it. Which will push harder for amnesty for illegals?

If McCain loses then the Republicans get the punishment they deserve. Also, McCain doesn't get to invade more countries. But maybe he won't be able to invade anyway since Congress is a lot more leery of foreign adventures than it was in 2002.

Obama will certainly push racial preferences to a greater extent than McCain. But pushing a debate about race into the center of American politics might not work out the way he envisions. Most American try not to think too much about race. But suppose they start thinking and talking a lot about it. What conclusions will they reach? Perhaps conclusions not favorable to the racial spoils lobby.


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