Of course John Edwards isn't engaged to Rielle Hunter. I hope.
Of course John Edwards isn't engaged to Rielle Hunter!
The thing that I miss most about the halcyon years before John Edwards burst onto the national scene was the ability to ignore headlines from the National Enquirer. It's a sad statement about Edwards that he has become the Enquirer's unofficial beat. It says that he has slipped entirely beyond the pale of what is credible, sensible, or even remotely good behavior. This isn't news. His reputation was lost years ago when the Hunter scandal first reared its head. He's a pariah.
But he seems to be the only one.
John Edwards (in spite of polls that suggest Levi Johnston is slightly less popular than he is, in some constituencies) seems to be the one perpetually unredeemed and irredeemable figure of our political times. Ted Haggard is getting a reality show. Eliot Spitzer? He's on CNN. But John Edwards is consigned to the realm of the eternal punchline. He's the sort of individual you only bring up to ruin the mood at weddings or destroy people's perfectly good days.
Of course, he has gone out of his way to deserve it.
But the fact that he's alone in this is sort of shocking. To get there, John Edwards had to be the ultimate limit. His life implies that the American people will forgive you anything -- unless, while running for president, you cheat on your cancer-stricken wife and lie about it. That's an incredibly low bar.
And I worry it might move lower. Now, when Elizabeth's memory is fresh, everyone is indignant at the Enquirer's report, lacing their Twitter rants and regular rants with vitriol. But give it a year. Give it two years.
I would love to say that Edwards is respecting his wife's memory because he has seen the error of his ways and is not going to trouble us longer. But given what he's been capable of before, I highly doubt it. His real affair was not with Ms. Hunter but with the spotlight itself and the irresistible allure of its fickle beam. Given his tenacious attention-seizing tendencies, only a man who sensed that some form of comeback was not beyond the realm of possibility would have conducted himself so well so far.
So what's happening to the Enquirer now is what would have happened to the boy who cried wolf, had he survived. He never set out to be the person who informs the community accurately about the presence of wolves. He was just amusing himself by provoking a response. But after he once pointed out an actual wolf, people have started believing him -- just in case.
The Enquirer was wise to assume we'd mistake this sort of thing for fact. Sure, the story might be false now. But give it time.
| January 7, 2011; 4:12 PM ET
Categories: Epic Failures, Petri, Worst Things Ever | Tags: America, John Edwards, oops
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