The John Edwards Affair

While everyone is jumping on the John Edwards Castigation Bandwagon, I’d like to present some contrary thoughts on the issue.  One of the first to jump on the Castigation Bandwagon, which I will henceforth abbreviate as the CB, was David Bonior, Barack Obama’s campaign manager.  This didn’t just disappoint me, it made me very angry, and Obama should publicly disown his statements.  Mr. Bonior should tread more carefully, since there but for the grace of God goes he.

The gist of the CB is that not only did Edwards have an affair, but he had it during the time his wife learned she had terminal metastatic breast cancer.  Like there can be no greater example of scumbagism.  I submit that that’s exactly why he had an affair–because his wife had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  That if he were ever going to have an affair, this was precisely the most likely time for it to happen.

I think people underestimate the powerful emotions created in the friends and families of those diagnosed with cancer.  The person with cancer has to come to terms with it in some way; there is a level of acceptance that must be reached.  But in many ways, it’s worse for the person who is going to be left behind.  There is anger (“Why me?”), survivor’s guilt, and helplessness.  It’s easy for me to understand why John Edwards could have succumbed to an affair, where for some brief time he could escape the overwhelming knowledge of his deadly and certain future. 

Mr. Edwards explains his conduct by saying that over the course of his campaigns, he began to believe he was special, and that he became increasingly narcissistic and egocentric.  While it may seem admirable for him to castigate himself in this way, it makes me wonder if he knows his own motivations.  He is afraid.  Maybe he does understand this, but doesn’t want to say so.  It is, after all, his wife who is dying, not him.    Can he not at least match her strength and courage?  Well sometimes people can, and sometimes they can’t.  It’s called human frailty.    How would you handle it if the person you’ve been “been in love with for 30 years”, as he puts it, was dying?

My first, and continuing, reaction to the story was great sadness.  What’s called for here is compassion, for both John and Elizabeth.  The CB’ers need to step off, and stop with the self-righteousness and despicable glee over this tragic but all too human story.

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5 responses to “The John Edwards Affair

  1. I can’t believe the press coverage that this generated. But running and hiding in the bathroom was hilarious.

  2. While I agree that there is too much attention being paid here, I don’t think the argument that affairs are permissible when a spouse is imminently dying is valid either. In the first place, Edwards has said himself that the affair was owing to his own shortsightedness. And his wife confirmed that it occurred and she had learned of it prior to her diagnosis.

    Your first insight is certainly dead on the money. It is hypocrisy for the Obama campaign to resort to any kind of sanctimonious drivel here because it has declared itself the campaign of progressive thinking. I think we can all agree that Ted Kennedy has a less than perfect past, and yet his endorsement was gratefully accepted by Obama.

    It’s impossible for anybody to perceive and fairly judge the private elements of a marriage between two people unless you are one of the aforementioned two. And as someone who has witnessed a couple in similar circumstances, during which time the husband remained completely faithful over the course of a 10-year ailment…I know fidelity is possible even when challenged and it is perhaps something one should strive for. If John Edwards loves his wife, I hope that he will appreciate as much quality time spent with Elizabeth as life affords them.

  3. fem, thank you for replying. It was not my intention to say that Edwards’ behavior was permissible. Merely to say that I understand it. I also agree with what I think you’re saying, which is that no one is capable of judging. JE was not up to this enormous task, which others have been. He’s been humiliated now before his family and the public. How much more punishment does he need? I’m not a religious person, but the Bible has a lot of good advice, starting with “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

  4. Not to mention “Judge not, lest ye be judged”.

  5. An insightful post Fakename. I agree completely that it is despicable for someone to try to use something like this for political gain.

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