Posts Tagged ‘John Edwards’

Hard to Believe: The Newest Allegation in the Edwards Scandal

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

I wrote about the John Edwards affair a few days ago.  The next phase of this scandal is the book by close Edwards aide Andrew Young who took the blame for the affair with Rielle Hunter and for impregnating her. He since had a falling out with Edwards, and written a tell-all (to pile two clichéd phrases together) – so his most sensationalist claims should be treated with skepticism. From the perspective of the “story” of this scandal though, it was hard to see how the Edwards affair could get more tawdry – how Young’s account what had come before. But as reported by Louise Radnofsky and Susan Davies in the Wall Street Journal, Young clearly has advanced the story even further!

Young describes his alleged discovery of a compromising videotape of Edwards and a naked, pregnant lover, identified by Young as Hunter. “It was like watching a traffic pileup occur in slow motion — it was repelling but also transfixing,” he writes.

I can see the tabloid headline now: Edwards Makes Preggo Porn With New Baby Mama While Wife Dying of Incurable Cancer.

It used to be said that only 2 things could entirely destroy a political career: being found with a live boy or a dead woman. Edwards has apparently added a 3rd category.

[Image by alexdecarvalho licensed under Creative Commons.]

The Edwards Morality Tale

Monday, January 25th, 2010

One of the most interesting stories of the past two years has been the tale of John Edwards. In 2004, several essays by William Saletan (here, here, and here) as well as his forceful speeches, positive tone, and life story convinced me to support Edwards. He was passionate. His message was upbeat, tapping into the hope of the American dream, but he acknowledged how far it had fallen. He campaigned on the theme of the economic restoration of the American dream – the same theme that imbued Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. But it is also a theme that has haunted liberalism since the 1970s – as it has sought to recreate the economic conditions that lead to the stable middle class of the 1950s and 1960s, a kind of reactionary nostalgia. Whether this is the correct view of history or not, it is excellent politics. By 2008, Edwards had doubled down on this – and was running a policy-intensive, netroots focused campaign on economic issues. It was only upon hearing him answer Tim Russert’s questions on Iraq and national security in 2007 that I finally abandoned him as a candidate for 2008.

But in the meantime, he himself was apparently changing – was being corrupted by his success, was becoming greedy for attention and privilege:

[E]veryone who met Edwards was struck by how down-to-earth he seemed. He had fewer airs about him than most other wealthy trial lawyers, let alone most senators.

Many of his friends started noticing a change – the arrival of what one of his aides referred to as “the ego monster” – after he was nearly chosen by Al Gore to be his running mate in 2000: the sudden interest in superficial stuff to which Edwards had been oblivious before, from the labels on his clothes to the size of his entourage. But the real transformation occurred in the 2004 race, and especially during the general election. Edwards reveled in being inside the bubble: the Secret Service, the chartered jet, the press pack, the swarms of factotums catering to his every whim. And the crowds! The ovations! The adoration! He ate it up. In the old days, when his aides asked how a rally had gone, he would roll his eyes and self-mockingly say, “Oh, they love me.” Now we would bound down from the stage beaming and exclaim, without the slightest shred of irony, “They looooove me!”

As this “ego monster” took over his personality, Edwards met Rielle Hunter – who, aside from offering herself sexually, stroked his ego. And so, Edwards apparently fell in love with the idea of himself that Rielle Hunter presented to him. This allowed her past all the numerous safeguards that Edwards had built to keep himself from being embroiled in any Clintonian affairs and added to his apparent descent into hubris.

The Edwards story has advanced a bit – with tawdry detail after tawdry detail leaking out over the last months. From the book proposal by close aide Andrew Young (who initially took responsibility for the affair with Rielle Hunter) claiming that Edwards comforted her by promising that “after his wife died, he would marry her in a rooftop ceremony in New York with an appearance by the Dave Matthews Band” to the revelations in Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (excerpted for New York magazine) to the most recent acknowledgement that despite his earlier “confession” he was in fact the father of the “love child” with Hunter.

Even with these scandals under the surface, he still was determined to get some prominent post in the government. He was so cocooned, he believed he could get past all these stories and that Obama could appoint him to a top position:

“John will settle for attorney general,” Hindery e-mailed Daschle.

Daschle shook his head. How desperate is this guy?

“Leo, this isn’t good for John,” Daschle replied. “This is ridiculous. It’s going to be ambassador to Zimbabwe next.”

When Obama heard about the suggested quid pro quo, he was incredulous. That’s crazy, he told Axelrod. If I were willing to make a deal like that, I shouldn’t be president.

South Carolina brought an end to the Edwards campaign; after finishing a derisory third in the primary, he dropped out of the race a few days later. Yet for months that spring, as Obama and Clinton engaged in their epic tussle, Edwards continued in his Monty Hall mode, attempting to try to claim some reward from either candidate for his backing.

The trouble with Obama, from Edwards’s point of view, was his refusal to get transactional. When Edwards told Obama that he wanted him to make poverty a centerpiece of his agenda, Obama airily replied, Yeah, yeah, year, I care about all that stuff. Clinton, by contrast, proposed that she and Edwards do a poverty tour together, even suggested that Edwards would have “a role” in her administration. Edwards still had his eye on becoming attorney general, and thought the odds of getting that plum were better with Hillary than with Obama. But after South Carolina, the chances of Clinton claiming the nomination just kept falling – and Edwards didn’t want to back a loser.

So Edwards sat there, perched on the fence, squandering his leverage. Making the situation all the more absurd was the birth in late February of Hunter’s baby, a girl she named Frances Quinn – a development that Edwards somehow convinced himself would not preclude his being nominated and confirmed to run the Department of Justice.

Finally, in May, after suffering a blowout loss to Clinton in the West Virginia primary, Obama phoned Edwards and briefly managed to pierce his bubble of delusion. Tomorrow is the last day when your endorsement is going to make a difference, he told Edwards. And what would Edwards get in return? Not much more than a prime-time speaking slot at the Democratic convetion.

At 1:15 a.m., Obama sent an e-mail to his staff: Edwards is a go.

I normally like a good scandal which brings a fast-inflating figure down to size (though I really hate the media’s moralizing tone in covering these scandals.) But this story has the feel of a pathetic side figure in a Shakespearean comedy – a decent but not great man undone by his own egotism.

[This tremendous photograph by alexdecarvalho licensed under Creative Commons.]

Deficiencies of Judgment

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Mona Charen over at The Corner thinks that Palin’s $150,000 spent on wardrobe in two months isn’t really all that impressive. To demonstrate, she points out that Obama’s suits are rumored to cost as much as $1,500.

Of course, for Obama to buy enough $1,500 suits to spend $150,000 in 52 days – the amount of time between Palin’s selection as Vice Presidential nominee and when the story broke on Monday – he would need to buy 1.9 suits per day.

Of course – Charen also points out that some of the money was also spent on the rest of the Palin clan – but the amounts here seem to be relatively trivial – $5,000 on her husband for example.

This is also clearly part of a history of Palin using public office for her private enrichment – from the budding travelgate scandal, in which Palin charged the state of Alaska for all of her children’s and husband’s travel and for hotel rooms, adding up to at least $40,000 (not including her own travel) – to the per diem charges she billed to the state of Alaska for every night she stayed in her own home adding up to some $16,000.

Based on her dismissal of the outrage over Palin’s expensive wardrobe due to her faulty math skills and partisan blinders, Charen declares the real reason for the outrage:

I cannot escape the suspicion that one reason everyone is so exercised (other than the obvious, i.e. that she’s a Republican) is that she is so gorgeous in those clothes. There is simply no other woman in political life to match her. The green-eyed monster strikes!

By that logic, can’t we also accuse all those conservatives out there of jealousy – as they brought up John Edwards’s $400 haircuts at every mention of his name?

I just don’t buy it. I think $150,000 in a close fought race is a lot of money to spend on clothes.

At the same time, this reinforces some of the more unsavory aspects of the scandals brewing in Alaska.

It’s news – whether Mona Charen likes it or not.

Casting Stones

Friday, August 8th, 2008

I think this President has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen.

From the statement of John Edwards in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton on February 12, 1999.

H/t Andrew Sullivan.

The old rule of politics is that a politician’s career isn’t done unless a politician is caught with:

a live boy or a dead girl.

Edwards releases this information on the Friday the Olympics begins and as a war breaks out between Russia and Georgia.  He obviously is still looking out for a future political career.

7 Reasons Why Hillary Should Not Be the VP

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Although I was never crazy about the idea, there was a time – several weeks ago now – when I considered the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket to be a potentially good idea. Andrew Sullivan’s excellent column floating the idea moved me somewhat – even as I tended to think that Senator Jim Webb would be a better choice. I had thought of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s description of Lincoln’s genius in organizing his “team of rivals” even before Sullivan mentioned it. And I thought that Obama could pull it off if any politician today could. But Maureen Dowd’s description of Obama’s and Clinton’s interpersonal dynamic struck me as accurate enough, and Clinton continued to campaign – standing up for her supporters – “hard-working white people”; comparing her efforts to de-legitimatize the process of delegate selection she at first endorsed to abolition; and in general acting as if Obama’s nomination were not only a personal affront to her but the end of the Democratic party.

So, I’ve soured on the idea. Here’s seven reasons why Hillary Clinton should not be chosen as Obama’s vice presidential running mate:

  1. From Rachel Maddow on MSNBC’s Inside the War Room just a few minutes ago:
  2. [It would be] very awkward for a vice presidential candidate to be on a presidential candidate’s ticket after she has made repeated references to his potential death. Yes, that would be weird.

  3. It will undermine the rationale behind Obama’s candidacy and make Obama look weak. As Reihan Salam of The Atlantic wrote:

    A backroom deal with Clinton would make a mockery of Obama’s language of hope and change. It would make Obama appear weak, and it would reward Clinton for running a campaign more vicious than anything Lee Atwater could have cooked up. More importantly, Obama would be choosing a fundamentally weak and unpopular running mate who has masked her marked executive inexperience through endless misrepresentation of her role in the Clinton White House – a role that begins and ends with a healthcare debacle that would have gotten anyone other than a First Lady fired.

    Or, to put it as John Edwards did:

  4. She doesn’t put a single state or demographic group on the board for Obama.
    She is a highly polarizing figure. The demographic splits in the primaries so far have been best explained by the Peabody award-winning Josh Marshall over at the Talking Points Memo: The only areas where Hillary has decisively beaten Obama are in the Appalachian region of the country. But Hillary is far from the best candidate to appeal to this group. Former Senator John Edwards, Governor Ed Rendell, Governor Ted Strickland, and especially Senator Jim Webb all would seem to have greater appeal to the Scotch-Irish Reagan Democrats of the Appalachia. Clinton’s base is entirely in the Democratic party where she is relatively popular, while Obama has substantial support among independents and even some Republicans. That is why Clinton has done better in closed primaries than ones open to independents or all parties (at least until Rush Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos gained traction).
  5. Bill.
  6. She’s run a terrible campaign so far. Would she run a better campaign if she trying to win for Obama?
    Her campaign is already $21,000,000.00 in debt. She squandered enormous institutional and name recognition advantages. Does anyone still remember that she was the prohibitive favorite before “a skinny kid with a funny name” expertly managed one of the hardest fought campaigns in history?
  7. She shouldn’t be rewarded for trying to bully her way onto the ticket (after being told no “politely but straightforwardly and irrevocably“, threatening an “open civil war“) and for her bullying tactics during the rest of the campaign (threatening to withhold funds from the DNC; attacking Nancy Pelosi; lying about Obama’s record on abortion, NAFTA, and other issues; using voter suppression tactics in Nevada and Iowa; and undermining the legitimacy of the delegate selection process she agreed to when she thought it was to her benefit.)
  8. Her sense of entitlement.

As a bonus:

Hillary’s not going to help Obama win in November. Let’s get on to the main event already.

Drop out, Senator, and settle for becoming the next Secretary of Defense or a Supreme Court Justice.

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Headline news

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

1. Principal bans rainbows on students’ clothes because they are “sexually suggestive” and “would make students automatically picture gay people having sex.”

2. As I try to break free from the crowd, one of the Hezbollah members grabs my arm. “You from America?” he asks. “I hate America, but I love Kobe Bryant.”

3. World’s most obese man tries to set world record for most weight lost.

4. Hillary Vows to Fight on for Edwards’ Endorsement: “My friends, I will fight for the endorsement of John Edwards, even if it takes all summer.”

(more…)

Did John Edwards Slip and Reveal Who He Is Going to…

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Endorse?

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Edwards: Santa Claus & Easter Bunny More Plausible Than Hillary as the Agent of Change

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

The Charlotte Observer headlined1 an article yesterday:

Bill Clinton: N.C. now crucial
He says wife’s bid to get nomination will hinge on Tar Heel state
Like it did in Texas and Ohio, the Clinton campaign for president has drawn a line in the sand, down the middle of the Tar Heel state.

Donklephant interprets this to mean Mr. Clinton is saying that if his wife doesn’t win North Carolina, she’s out. As Mr. Obama is ahead by high double digits in most polls, this line in the sand is surprising. Donklephant asks:

One can’t help but wonder if Hill and company have a big endorsement announcement up their sleeves if Bill is drawing a line in the sand like this.

A prominent North Carolina Democrat who has not yet endorsed anyone and whose opinion might have significant weight – perhaps enough to throw the state to Ms. Clinton. That narrows it down to this list:

  1. Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC).

With the recent revelations by John Heilmann that caused a stir a few weeks ago that Mr. Obama offended Ms. Edwards by objecting to both Ms. Clinton’s and Mr. Edwards’ health care mandates too strongly while Ms. Clinton charmed both of the Edwardses after Mr. Edwards dropped out. I’ve also heard the rumor that Mr. Edwards demanded the position of attorney general to endorse Mr. Obama; but that Mr. Obama refused to give it to him. Regardless, there is some sort of bad juju between Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama since Mr. Edwards suspended his campaign. It’s enough to overcome the natural alliance that should exist between the two men with similar diagnoses of the nation’s problems, and the alliance that did exist while both tried to catch up to Ms. Clinton.

But for Mr. Edwards to endorse Ms. Clinton would be to go against his rationale for running in the first place, and would elevate his personal feelings over what he knows to be best for the country and for the Democratic party. In his own words:

In the end, I don’t think John Edwards will endorse anyone until after the last primary. He can’t choose Ms. Clinton because of his politics; and he doesn’t want to choose Mr. Obama for mainly personal reasons.

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  1. Or is subheadlined more appropriate? []