Johnny, we hardly knew ye

August 10, 2008 by barbara

barbara writes

Dear John Edwards:

Well, you finally made big headlines. Remember when you were running for President of the United States how the media paid scant attention to you? Those were the days, eh?

You know, John, many of us were true believers in you. We figured you were the Democrats’ best hope. We defended you when the Pugs cursed and reviled you. We railed against anyone who tried to bring you down. We even sent you money. Well, I did, anyway. And we believed you when you were flat-out lying to us about your complete devotion to family, to Elizabeth.

Turns out you must have the same moral fiber as Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton, Elliot Spitzer, Gary Hart, Wilbur Mills and possibly John McCain. So you have lots of political company in the Shameless Philanderer Hall of Fame. Read on.

Here’s the deal. A man who deceives and betrays his wife and then lies and lies and lies is not trustworthy. Period. Some posit that it’s possible to have water-tight compartments in one’s moral filing system, their point being that the fidelity thingie can be walled off from the whole. I call bullshit. Some say philandering is a private matter that does not reflect on a man’s fitness to lead this nation. I call bullshit.

Now I concede that your situation is a little different in that you do not currently hold nor are you currently seeking public office. (You likely already thought of this, I’m guessing, but you can probably kiss that Cabinet post goodbye.) So is it fair to trot out your philandering for public scrutiny? You know, it is. Wasn’t it enough “punishment” that you didn’t make the presidential cut? It wasn’t. Here’s why.

People are indeed fallible. They make mistakes. I’ve made some doozies myself. Where this gets gnarly is when boudoir bingo is actually abuse of power (which in the case of people in power, it is, even when the philanderee is a willing participant) and betrayal of public trust. Okay, that and sliming the Democratic Party, which frankly didn’t need any more slime.

John, we looked into your baby blues and thought we were seeing the soul of a principled man who deserved our serious consideration as a presidential contender. You cheated, you lied, you said that you loved us. I reckon we’re called to forgiveness, but this is gonna leave scars, my friend. And it makes everyone nervous. “If you can’t trust John Edwards, who you gonna trust, for crying out loud?!” Who, indeed?

And then there’s the part that really isn’t our business. The matter of your family. Of Elizabeth. I cannot imagine what this has done to her. Well, actually I can, but that’s another story. About Elizabeth? Please ask her to take immense care. No matter what, she does not deserve this.

I’m pissed, John. You let us down. You let Elizabeth down. You were prepared to be flag-carrier for the Democrats in an election that has world-wide consequences--prepared to run even as you knew the Pugs would surely unearth all of this. What were you thinking, man?

And just so you know? The pecker-powered life rarely ends well.


Posted in


MLS (not verified) | August 10, 2008 - 10:35pm

My feelings exactly, Barb.
A year ago, John Ewards was my choice - family man, intelligent, political expertise, excellent speaker and overall showing good/solid credentials. A year ago, I failed to think that John Edwards would be among those "rats" in Washington caught in a lie. I regret to learn I was wrong and I regret to learn that John's wife, children, friends and supporters were all wronged by his lack of integrity.


peggy (not verified) | August 14, 2008 - 7:26pm

Barbara, you said it brilliantly as usual!


paul miller (not verified) | August 16, 2008 - 8:39am

John F. Kennedy established the modern day American presidential model and virtually every presidential candidate since has had the same sense of privilege, somehow we just seem to find out about the Democrats peccadilloes more than the Republicans


sue w. (not verified) | August 16, 2008 - 5:42pm

I usually agree with you, but I think you're way off here. In my opinion a candidate's "devotion" to his or her family is not the public's business unless the law was broken. We should not be using (your) sexual morality as the index of how good a candidate (not that Edwards is one) would be -- this is just unthinking puritanism. And for that matter, I question (this will really shock you) whether you are in a position to make a sweeping judgement about how "devoted" Edwards is to his wife. Marriage is too complicated for that. I know people who are faithful and are not loving, and people who have been unfaithful and do love their spouses. So in sum, I find your moral indignation to be simplistic and misplaced.


MLS (not verified) | August 16, 2008 - 7:44pm

Although not my business, none the less it was truly disheartening to learn that John Edwards had an extra marital affair. How he and his family handle this is personal, but the
main point of this conversation is that he lied. That both disappoints and concerns me. As Barbara said, "If you can't trust John Edwards, who you gonna trust...?"


sue w. (not verified) | August 17, 2008 - 1:14pm

My point is that lying about one's most intimate life is not a public trust issue, since the public really has no business knowing it in the first place. All this has become a really big deal since Clinton was put through the ringer -- I wonder how many presidents/candidates/holders of political office have done exactly this in the past.

I know this is provocative, but in my opinion Clinton and Edwards were right to lie about their sex lives. For me it's more a question of Edwards' judgement in thinking he wouldn't be caught, given the current atmosphere of holier-than-though moralism.


sue w. (not verified) | August 17, 2008 - 1:23pm

Sorry, too rushed -- obviously meant "holier-than-thou" -- which is what this attitude of righteousness is when people talk about "not trusting" a politician who had an affair as though it's on the same level as not trusting a candidate to invade another country, or lying about sleeping with someone as on the same level as lying about WMD's. This is more than just naive, it's unthinking.


Anon 1 (not verified) | August 17, 2008 - 8:05pm

Oh, no need to be "rushed" here.

You will not lose track of your post. You have plenty of time.


DKNY (not verified) | August 20, 2008 - 9:20am

A few points (unrelated to each other) on all this:
First, if I had a dime for everyone who's said of the these outed affairs "it's not the sex, it's the lying that's so wrong"........It's as if we're ashamed to be puritanical about sex, but not about lying? Seems to me the whole raison d'etre of an affair is that it's clandestine. If it's open for all to see, it's, well, bigamy, or an "open" marriage. And the public ain't too keen on those things either. In any case, I posit that more marriages have been held together by lying about sex than by honesty about it.
Second: My question is why why why is it that these candidates, who walk pretty successfully through mine fields of ridiculous do's and don't's (must profess deep abiding faith in God, must wear lapel pins, must refrain from costly haircuts, must monitor voice level - no war hoops, no "shrill", etc etc) are so often unable to avoid stepping on that great big one, the extramarital sex mine? Is exotic sex just too powerful a need for these men to control?
Let me throw out a possibility here, and hey, my two points are related after all:
Maybe the affair is the one place that a candidate is afforded absolute privacy. I can identify with that. Call me, what was it they used to say, frigid? but sex is one thing I can sure put aside. Privacy isn't.
And Barbara - still rooting for you in re David. I'm glad you took off your earlier screed - and the above writer who disagreed with you is not that "New York" person, I am.


barbara says (not verified) | August 20, 2008 - 5:24pm

Yeah, I blew my cork at some of the snotty comments above.

Okay. It's swell that John Edwards had an affair. It doesn't matter that he cheated and lied. He's a hale fellow, well met. Great hair, too. He should be president. No, wait. He should be emperor. And we all owe him an apology. It's our fault, dammit. We are wicked, wicked people for judging him so harshly. Well, wicked puritans who are none too bright and who have humongous hangups about sex and probably other stuff, but we're too puritan to say what that might be.


FYI, David is finally out of the hospital. Cancer sucks.


susan weisser (not verified) | August 22, 2008 - 3:19pm

Now there's a peevish response, Barbara -- three "wicked"s in one post! Relax, no one thinks you're wicked -- I was making a serious point in reply to what I thought was your serious post. I've had cancer myself not so long ago, by the way, so I sympathize, but that doesn't diminish my interest in getting political ideas straight. If my tone was "snotty" (I pick up a tad of defensiveness here), it was because I thought your dismissal of Edwards was condescending and unthinking. No one (except maybe Laura Kipnis) advocates for adultery, so you have the comfort of having the usual mass opinion on your side -- but I don't see a real answer to my point that adultery, or lying about adultery, does not detract from a politician's ability to be a good leader, or that politicians should be required to be "honest" when asked questions that are not the public's business. The introduction of sexual sensationalism into the political press from Clinton onwards is not a trivial topic, in my humble (or snotty) opinion.


barbara writes (not verified) | August 22, 2008 - 10:20pm


sorry 'bout your cancer, though


DKNY (not verified) | August 23, 2008 - 9:18am

Forget snotty or humble. Regardless of the Edwards situation, I do think the question of humans being able to be or do two contradictory things at once is interesting, and probably has no good answer. No harm tryin, though. How could Nazis supervise the death camps while playing beautiful Beethoven? How could the Jim Crow southern gentleman make love to a black woman, and even sometimes surrepticiously support his children by her, while enjoying watching a lynching down the street?
Anyone got an answer?
Funny how these days, more and more old old memories come rolling back to weigh in:
1952, Adlai Stevenson, divorced, was running for Pres against Dwight Eisenhower. I, aged nine, by virtue of being born to Democrats, was for Stevenson. A llittle Republican friend taunted me with the remark, "How can Stevenson run the country - he can't even run his own marriage!" I was stymied, and so repeated the question to my mother. I still remember her unhesitating, breezy answer: "Very different skills." Since then, Reagan, Kerry, McCain (am I missing some, Ford?) have been given passes on the divorce issue. Different skills needed? Or has divorce just become so commonplace as to be boring, even to that vast audience of prurient Americans?


sue w. (not verified) | August 23, 2008 - 12:41pm

Two things at once: I can be sincerely sorry about cancer, and yet I can still disagree with your political remark. To me one thing has nothing to do with the other -- the disagreement doesn't in any way imply insincerity or "snottiness". That's in your head.

Since when is personality a political argument? Since I can't seem to get any actual reasons in reply to my point on this blog, or at least from this poster, I'm outta here.


Denise R. (not verified) | August 23, 2008 - 3:15pm

People, she's outta here. Safe to come out now.


sue w. (not verified) | August 23, 2008 - 7:27pm

One last thought before I quit and it's safe for you to swim in good feelings all around again. Barb, I'm sorry if I offended you -- I had no intention of doing so when I first disagreed with you above. Chalk this up to my misunderstanding the purpose of this blog. I thought this was a forum for serious political talk, and I enjoy a spirited dialogue, where intelligent people back up their positions, including conflicting positions, with reasons and arguments. If I had known that you would take all this so personally, I would not have written as I did. You seem vulnerable, and your loyal friends want to back you up so you won't feel bad. This is not what I hoped for in reading the Clothesline blog. But I wish you and your loved one well in your fight against cancer, it goes without saying.


B.S. detector (not verified) | August 24, 2008 - 10:30pm

I'll bet you have a "Nobody died when Clinton lied" bumpersticker, too. Why doesn't trust and fidelity in a marriage count in evaluating a person's character? You are asking me to believe that integrity in one's personal life has no
bearing on the choices they will make in their public life?
What other "thou shalt not" commandments are you willing to


DKNY (not verified) | September 18, 2008 - 11:22am

Sue.W. doesn't have a car, hence, no bumper sticker. I have a car, but no bumper stickers. Don't know why, but I 've never much liked b.s. (bumper stickers, I mean)