Are we gonna do this? Really? We are?
Okay, then, let’s do this.
John Edwards is a putz, and he should have been better to his wife. There are marriages where partners are allowed, even encouraged to cheat, but both of the Edwardses have said directly that theirs is not one of them, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. If you promise your spouse fidelity, you owe your spouse fidelity, and if you cannot give that to them, you owe it to your spouse to leave, so that they can find someone who can.
So John Edwards is an idiot, and I agree with Kathy G., it surprises and disappoints me, though perhaps it shouldn’t.
But John Edwards doesn’t need to atone to me. Nor to Kathy G., nor to noted man-goat sex enthusiast Mickey Kaus. Edwards’ sin was against his wife and his children, and it is to them he will have to explain himself. It is to them he owes his apology. It is their forgiveness he will have to seek, and their decision on whether to grant it. Allegedly, he already sought their forgiveness in 2006, and received it; whether this changes that is between him and them.
John Edwards made a dumb mistake, one which, were I married to him, would probably lead to my filing divorce papers. But I’m not married to him. I don’t know him, not really. What I do know of him tells me that he’s still a man who has a great passion for making this country a better place, one who believes in a nation where the gap between the haves and have-nots actually shrinks for once. He would still be a good Attorney General, still a good Secretary of Labor, indeed, still a good President.
John Edwards has committed no sin against the American people, and he owes us no explanation of his actions. It is, to put it bluntly, irrelevant whether George W. Bush is faithful as the day is long; he’s still a lousy president. It is, to put it directly, irrelevant that Bill Clinton cheated on his wife; he’s still, on balance, a good president. It matters not whether Al Gore is faithful to Tipper, or Barack Obama to Michelle, or Hillary Clinton to Bill, or John McCain to Cindy. You and I are not a party to their marriages. You and I have no stake in whether they are faithful or not. It’s between them and their families, and it’s none of our business.
A politician’s worth is judged not by how faithful they are, and their personal lives are not good predictors of their professional skill. A politician owes it to their constituents to work to make our country the best country it can be. I’m not voting against John McCain because he’s a serial philanderer, I’m voting against him because I believe his policies, such as they are, are bad for the country. I’m not voting for Barack Obama because by all accounts he’s been faithful to his wife, I’m voting for him because I believe that on balance, his policies will be good for the country. If tomorrow I discovered that Barack was a cheater and McCain had been unfairly tarred, it wouldn’t change my vote, because I’m not picking a husband, I’m picking a president.
John Edwards may be a bad husband. But I have seen nothing that would convince me he’d be a bad cabinet official. If something comes to light indicating he was an ethically challenged senator, let me know. Until then, I think John should go talk to Elizabeth and his children, and seek a way forward for all of them, be it together or apart. Only they can decide.
And I think the rest of us should butt out, and give them their privacy.