For Edwards, only full truth can pave path to redemption
It's strange that John Edwards is a former trial lawyer yet seems to have forgotten that standard oath to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."
Granted, his admitted affair is not in a court of law. But because he sought the highest office in the land, it is squarely in three de facto courts: of public opinion, the political arena and, most shamefully, his family circle.
(Photo - "Mistake": John Edwards admits to affair / ABC via AP)
As the world now knows, Edwards had an affair beginning in 2006 with Rielle Hunter, whom his campaign paid to produce videos of the candidate as he sought the Democratic nomination. He initially denied the affair, which the National Enquirer first reported in October. When Hunter had a child in February, a married Edwards staffer claimed to be the father. Then came reports of payments to Hunter from an Edwards associate.
As lies and half truths tend to do, Edwards' words, and these circumstances, beg follow-up questions too numerous to list here.
Edwards had dismissed the Enquirer stories as "tabloid trash," but his denials ended Friday, when he issued his mea culpa in an interview with ABC News and a written statement. It was timed - coincidentally, we're sure - to coincide with the opening of the Beijing Olympics. Edwards said that he told his wife, Elizabeth, about what he says was a brief affair in 2006, and that the timing of the pregnancy meant he was not the father. Yet Elizabeth, who is battling an incurable form of cancer, was apparently unaware of Edwards' recent visit to Hunter, an incident detailed in the Enquirer. The latest twist - that Hunter won't submit the child to a paternity test - won't help put this story to rest. Maury Povich's show couldn't top this.
Politicians having affairs and thinking they are untouchable is nothing new, of course. A sinners gallery includes former presidents John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, Louisiana congressman Bob Livingston, presidential candidate Gary Hart, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer. To name just a few.
Yet Edwards' transgression - indeed, his excuse - would test the patience of his most ardent supporter: I did it, but only while my wife's cancer was in remission. This suggests that the one-time rising star of the Democratic Party has not yet made contact with human reality and believes he can dissemble his way out of this, à la Bill Clinton.
The decent option is to tell the public the whole truth, without lawyerly equivocations. Then he has the difficult task of healing his family. He should recall his own wisdom in 1999, when with great clarity he described Clinton's affair as "breathtaking" for its "remarkable disrespect … for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter."
Even the best attorney couldn't argue with that assessment.Posted at 12:22 AM/ET, | Permalink