My last word on the Edwards affair

Elizabeth Edwards has written the following statement and posted it on the Daily Kos:

Our family has been through a lot. Some caused by nature, some caused by human weakness, and some – most recently – caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without any regard for the human consequences. None of these has been easy. But we have stood with one another through them all. Although John believes he should stand alone and take the consequences of his action now, when the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him.

John made a terrible mistake in 2006. The fact that it is a mistake that many others have made before him did not make it any easier for me to hear when he told me what he had done. But he did tell me. And we began a long and painful process in 2006, a process oddly made somewhat easier with my diagnosis in March of 2007. This was our private matter, and I frankly wanted it to be private because as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well. Because of a recent string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication, because of a picture falsely suggesting that John was spending time with a child it wrongly alleged he had fathered outside our marriage, our private matter could no longer be wholly private.

The pain of the long journey since 2006 was about to be renewed.

John has spoken in a long on-camera interview I hope you watch. Admitting one’s mistakes is a hard thing for anyone to do, and I am proud of the courage John showed by his honesty in the face of shame. The toll on our family of news helicopters over our house and reporters in our driveway is yet unknown. But now the truth is out, and the repair work that began in 2006 will continue. I ask that the public, who expressed concern about the harm John’s conduct has done to us, think also about the real harm that the present voyeurism does and give me and my family the privacy we need at this time.

(emphasis added)

I am in complete sympathy with this statement and do not intend to write anything additional about the affair. Edwards is being lambasted on the talk shows for having “covered up” his affair. But it wasn’t just in his interest to cover it up; it was also in the interest of his family. And it was to his family that Edwards owed his primary obligation here. Thus, unless he violated some law in the process, covering up the affair was the right thing for him to do.

I also find it difficult to understand why many conservative bloggers can’t entertain the possibility that Edwards feels genuine remorse over his conduct. To be sure, Edwards is a phony, and I’ve made that case in virtually everything I’ve ever written about him. Had this affair not been revealed, I’d have always remembered Edwards as the man whose phoniness, according to Bob Shrum, offended John Kerry.

But to have lived in the world, and to have understood the complexity of mankind, is to recognize that phoniness is not the same thing as an inability to have genuine feelings. To pretend frequently that one has extraordinary sensibilities is not evidence that one lacks ordinary sensibilities. A person with anything remotely resembling ordinary sensibilities would feel genuine remorse, and indeed shame, over the conduct involved here. Though we can’t know whether Edwards possesses such feeling, those who assume he doesn’t may be telling us more about themselves than about Edwards.

Piling on public figures after they are brought low by their human frailties is unseemly whatever the political affilation of the offender and whatever the ideological affiliaton of the critic.

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