The Edwards Affair: The Hypocrisy of Political Infidelity

Our media is happy once more.    They have their 24/7 political scandal.  John Edwards has admitted to having the affair that he previously denied having.  Now, the story of Rielle Hunter is coming out.  This story has everything – the good looking political hero who always seemed beyond reproach.  The strong, loveable wife who is stricken with an incurable form of cancer.  And now the ‘other woman’ who has led a questionable, adventuresome life.

Let me begin by saying that I was a huge supporter of the John Edwards candidacy having contributed to his campaign.  I was angered by his decision to drop out after professing his commitment to take it to the convention.

This new revelation took me aback although one really can never be surprised by others indiscretions especially by those drawn to power or money.  Just the mere fact that Edwards felt the calling to run for the presidency requires a certain, almost indescribable trait.  Call it arrogance or ego or elitism.

“In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.”   – John Edwards on August 8, 2008

I stepped back for a couple of days to digest this story.  All I knew was that I can not condone infidelity.   I also believe that the private lives of couples – in the bedroom – belong in the that couple’s bedroom, which is one of the reasons I am a Democrat

Both he and Elizabeth have stated that he had informed her back in 2006 about the affair which occurred that same year.  This was of course prior to his announcement that he was entering the 2008 presidential race.  He had publicly denied the affair when it came out October, 2007.  And now more than 6 months after he dropped out of the race, the truth comes out. 

The issue of fidelity is a private matter and should never be of public concern – except when you take the time to point the finger elsewhere (which I will get to in a moment)

Does his infidelity make him any less passionate about the middle class, the poor, universal healthcare and the myriad of other issues that had me supporting him?  Would his infidelity make him any less capable as an AG?  Of course not – on both counts. 

“If you want to beat me up — feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself.” – Edwards in the same statement.

What bothers me is the double standard at play here.  I am referring to the finger waving at the Democrats who get caught and the apologists’ response with the Republicans.  So that is the direction my mind decided to go.  The difference between Democrats and Republicans – when infidelity leaks to the press.

First – the most famous affair.  Bill Clinton.  I am not rehashing this one.  I lived through this 24/7 (thank you cable news) as this droned on ad naseum.  He actually got impeached over this lie.  He lied about an affair while under oath.  And because he lied to us?  Really?  Like I matter?  Boy, were we faux offended – especially the Republicans – like Newt Gingrich and Larry Craig.

Former New York Governor and AG Eliot Spitzer got caught with a hooker.  For that, Republicans and the media went ballistic.  He was threatened with impeachment if he didn’t resign. Spitzer resigned over this and his political career is over.  Current NY Governor David Paterson, during his opening press conference as Governor, announced to a shocked audience that he and his wife both had extra-marital affairs.  I wonder if Edwards had admitted it back in 2006, if he would have even been able to run for president.

Hypocrisy rules the day:  Let’s look at the Republicans in their glass houses.

Former Speaker of the House and current Fox News talking head Newt Gingrich won the hypocrite of the year award back in 1997 as he led the impeachment charge against President Clinton. 

Gingrich’s first marriage was to his former high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley.  He informed her of the divorce while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery – while he was having an affair with the woman who would become his second wife, Marianne Ginther.  The two were married months after the divorce.

But Gingrich’s story doesn’t end there.  The Congressman who once ran on the slogan “Let Our Family Represent Your Family” had another affair, cheating on Marianne, while the Clinton impeachment was going on.

Here is Gingrich justifying the hypocrisy.

“The standard is: In a court of law should somebody who’s popular get away with perjury?  And I drew a line in my mind that said, ‘Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept felonies and you cannot accept perjury in your highest officials.”

Of course, the other famous impeachment hypocrite is Republican Senator Larry Craig.  I’m not going to rehash this story either even though it was quite funny at the time.  I loved watching this grown man standing in front of the microphone, wife standing behind him pleading with America that he is ‘not gay’ like by admitting that makes everything all right – like by admitting you are gay is just so atrocious.  Just like Nixon:  “I am not a crook.” 

Could you imagine if he had said that he loves his wife but does occasionally give into his desires for men?  Instead, he stood there like a teenage boy.  “I am not gay,” as if that word was the worst thing imaginable.  Yet this hypocrite is still in the Senate running for re-election.  And yes, he is the same person who called President Clinton “a bad boy.  A naughty boy.  A nasty bad naughty boy.” 

Which leads me to Republican David Vitter, whose name turned up on the phone records of the DC Madam.  As a result, we got to see him speaking with his wife standing beside him.  Yes, his wife was the same woman who chastised Hillary Clinton for standing beside her husband after his indiscretions were made public.  Wendy Vitter made the following comment while discussing the resignation of former Louisiana House Speaker Bob Livingston.  He had resigned after admitting to numerous affairs.

“I’m a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary [Clinton]. If he does something like that, I’m walking away with one thing, and it’s not alimony, trust me.”

Vitter is still in the Senate and is still married to Wendy.  It is so easy to cast stones at someone else.

Former New York Mayor and Republican candidate for President Rudy ‘9-11’ Guiliani has been married 3 times.  Briefly, Giuliani started dating his second wife, Donna Hanover while still married to his first wife, Regina Peruggi in 1982.  In 1997, Giuliani admitted an affair with his communications director.  By 2000, he started his affair with Judith Nathan while still married.

I have never heard Giuliani point fingers at anyone else, but the Republicans and the media didn’t seem to mind Giuliani’s lifestyle during his run for the White House.  Only the voters took issue with this one-dimensional candidate.

The other Democrat I came up with is former New Jersey mayor Jim McGreevey.   He admitted publicly that he was gay, his wife standing next to him.  He admitted to having an affair and then resigned.  What I find interesting is – he resigned.  Democrats admit to affairs – straight, gay or with a prostitute and they resign or get subjected to moral outrage.  Republicans, after they are caught – whether they deny or admit – refuse to resign and defiantly stay in office and still run for re-election.  These are also the same ones who are offended by others indiscretions.  I have a difficult time with this logic. 

The name I’ve saved for last is presumptive Republican (surprise) nominee John McCain.  I wonder if we’ll be hearing more details of this story.  McCain and his first wife, Carol were married prior to his capture.  While a POW, Carol was involved in an automobile accident which left her disabled.  McCain was having an affair with Cindy prior to his divorce from Carol.

There was also a leak (similar to the October 2007 Edwards leak) involving McCain and a lobbyist.  It came out in February and like the October Edwards story was talked about for a couple of days and then forgotten. 

The issue here isn’t John Edwards, the former one-term Senator.  This story hands the media their salacious story during this boring part of the campaign and it give the ‘right’ something to scream about and something to deflect our attention from their weak presidential candidate and the political pendulum that is swinging away.

But the real issue is the hypocrisy of the Republican right.  The Democrats are asking ‘how is the Edwards affair different from McCain.’  That is a very interesting question.  If the McCain affair gains traction with the media, watch the Republicans moral outrage rise.

Let me conclude by saying that I detest these types of stories.  I wrote about it because of my admiration of both John and Elizabeth.  I also wanted to bring light to the obvious Republican hypocrisy.  I am not judging any of these people or saying that one is worse than another.  I am identifying and criticizing the hypocrisy of the reaction.

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One response to “The Edwards Affair: The Hypocrisy of Political Infidelity

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