Friday, August 8, 2008

John Edwards: from Ashley to Barney

Left: John Edwards, photo from C-Span's Campaign Network.


I first wrote about the John Edwards extramarital affair and possible love-child back in December, when the National Enquirer initially broke the story.

What's interesting is that I got two rather snotty emails at the time, haughtily informing me that this is a non-issue and I should be ashamed of myself for covering it.* And now, this non-issue is all over CNN and the other news networks. The story has gone respectable, now deemed ready for prime time. Why was it a trashy story back when the National Enquirer first covered it, but it isn't now? Didn't they pursue the story and thus MAKE it an issue?

When is a story about a candidate's personal life important and/or necessary? Who decides what news is news, and when?

I find these questions confusing, but what I don't find confusing is the behavior of Senator Edwards when discovered in flagrante by National Enquirer reporters. FOX NEWS was virtually beside itself with glee, reporting on the incident on July 25th:

A Beverly Hills hotel security guard told he intervened this week between a man he identified as former Sen. John Edwards and tabloid reporters who chased down the former presidential hopeful after what they're calling a rendezvous with his mistress and love child.

The Beverly Hilton Hotel guard said he encountered a shaken and ashen-faced Edwards — whom he did not immediately recognize — in a hotel men's room early Tuesday morning in a literal tug-of-war with reporters on the other side of the door.

"What are they saying about me?" the guard said Edwards asked.

"His face just went totally white," the guard said, when Edwards was told the reporters were shouting out questions about Edwards and Rielle Hunter, a woman the National Enquirer says is the mother of his child.

The guard said he escorted Edwards, who was not a registered guest at the hotel, out of the building after 2 a.m. Edwards did not say anything while he was escorted out, said the guard, adding that at times the reporters on the scene were "rough on him," sticking a camera in his face and shouting questions.

The guard did not recognize Edwards at the time of the incident, but said he concluded it was the 2008 presidential hopeful after hearing reports about the incident and finding an Enquirer reporter's notebook at the scene.

The guard said during the chase the reporters had dropped the notebook, which he picked up. "This book has everything in it on him," he said, referring to Edwards. The guard later confirmed Edwards' identity after being shown a photograph.

A former campaign staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told he wishes he were "more surprised" to hear reports Edwards was visiting [Rielle] Hunter. "I'm definitely upset by it. I wish I was more surprised, though."

Edwards has gone from dashing, would-be Vice President Ashley Wilkes, to... Barney Fife, eyes bugging out like a Tex Avery cartoon (BOIIIIIIINNNNNGGGGGGG!!!!!), sprinting down a hotel hallway in a panic and barricading himself in a public toilet. From one unforgettable southern archetype to another!

In case you haven't heard the whole story, it just gets worse:
Enquirer Editor-in-Chief David Perel told his reporters caught Edwards visiting [Rielle] Hunter and her baby at the hotel earlier Monday evening. Perel said Hunter and Edwards have been occasionally getting together so Edwards can see the baby. Hunter came to Beverly Hills with a male friend, Bob McGovern, said Perel. Hunter and her companion reportedly booked two rooms under McGovern's name, and McGovern picked up Edwards to bring him back to the hotel.

Perel said Enquirer staff had been given information about the planned Edwards-Hunter meeting, and the tabloid sent reporters to the hotel in anticipation of Edwards' arrival. According to the Enquirer, Edwards was first spotted being dropped off at the hotel at 9:45 p.m. PT, about 25 minutes after reporters watched McGovern leave the building in his BMW.

Edwards went to Hunter's room and the two left the hotel together and returned 45 minutes later, Perel said. Edwards reportedly entered her room and stayed there until after 2:30 a.m. PT. could not independently confirm the Enquirer's allegations. Perel also declined to identify where the Enquirer received the information about Edwards' alleged visits.

Perel told that after leaving Hunter's room, Edwards took an elevator to the basement, where he was confronted by two Enquirer reporters. He ran into the bathroom, where he remained until the security guard arrived.

The Enquirer says it has videotape showing Hunter entering the room where she met Edwards, and shows Edwards leaving the same room. However, the Enquirer has thus far declined repeated requests by to release any photographs or videotape evidence of the incident.
He's finally admitted the affair, but still denies being the father of Rielle Hunter's baby. We'll see how far he gets with that one.

Meanwhile, not sure what I think about the whole fiasco, as a moral/political issue. I'm not sure it should be one.

*I think when my correspondents self-righteously announced that this is a "non-issue"--they were making an ethical judgment of how things SHOULD be. Not how they really are.


Kristin said...

Okay, someone who grew up in NC here: I am so mad at John Edwards! I was a supporter in both presidential runs, and I was thrilled when he was chosen as Kerry's running mate in 2004. As much as he DOES often come across as if he's disingenuously reciting a script, I WAS something of a true believer for a while. Not to mention, his economic policies were much closer to my political views than those of the other two candidates.

I am so mad that he did this, and I'm also mad that Elizabeth Edwards is in the last few years of her life and having to deal with this shit on top of all of this media scrutiny and obsession. I have always thought she was the coolest thing about him, and I'd have loved to see her as a major political candidate one day. I loved that she would stand up and tell her husband he was wrong when he took a stand against gay marriage, and that she was willing to march and speak out about these things. She's beautiful, brilliant, fierce, and strong, and I wish her nothing but happiness and peace.

As much as this does make me angry with him, I don't think it should actually be a political issue in this country. It should be a private family matter. I didn't think Monica Lewinsky should have been a political issue either. But you're right--the truth is that this kind of thing *is* highly political in this country, and he campaigned for the presidency even after having done this! Ultimately, he was unable to control this information, so it very likely *would* have come out even if he'd won the nomination. And what would it have done? It could have seriously diminished the chances of the Democrats taking the Executive branch at a time in which this country can't afford four more years of endless war. And this isn't something that I can get past so easily. His personal goals and ambition do *not* trump what this country needs, and seriously... Knowing that this kind of damning information could be leaked at any time, he had absolutely no business running for that office.

You know, I'm now really glad that he didn't win. And I'm glad that this came out about him and not Obama.

Also... I watched the Nightline interview last night, and I do not for a moment believe that Edwards knew *nothing* about the payments his friend was making to Rielle Hunter. It's a convenient story, since it allows someone else to take the fall, but I think it's a lie. Also... I'm not at all convinced by the claim that this couldn't be his child.

Damnit. The whole thing just saddens me.

Kristin said...

Oh, and in addition to being disgusted with the media coverage on Elizabeth's behalf... I feel really bad for the kids. I was horrified enough when I found out my own parents were dealing with infidelity. To have it broadcast all over the world? That seems like it would be an entirely different thing.

Kristin said...

As for this:

"She's beautiful, brilliant, fierce, and strong, and I wish her nothing but happiness and peace."

Sorry if I come off as a little romantic/idealizing about Elizabeth Edwards. It's just that... She's *so* damned impressive, it's hard not to swoon. Also, I always thought she'd make a much better--and tougher--political candidate than John ever did.

Kristin said...

Don't mean to hijack your thread. I have clearly been thinking about this way too much.

I think one of the things that made me the angriest in the Nightline interview was John's insistence that the affair happened *after* Elizabeth's cancer was in remission. Then, knowing what a self-justifying asshole this would made him look like, he quickly backpedaled to point out that this fact doesn't excuse what he did. But he DID nevertheless have to throw it out there. He HAD to justify himself to a point--and *couldn't* have anyone thinking he was cheating on a his wife when he was *ill* because he wouldn't be *that* much of a narcissistic asshole.

That, and the fact that many of the "facts" he's recounting seem awfully sketchy. From the money that's being filtered to Hunter to the outright denial that this could be his kid.

Also suspicious--the fact that he was *recently* caught making a late night visit to her hotel room. I'm sorry, but if one wants to negotiate in as much secrecy as possible, one finds a private office room somewhere. This is not typically what occurs in *hotel rooms.* You know, I think it would be easier for me to get past this if he weren't continuing to treat us like we're stupid.

Kristin said...

oops, when *she* was ill. typo.

CrackerLilo said...

I agree with Kristin--no matter what else about him, I loved his wife and their relationship, and to do this to someone when they have cancer is wrong, wrong, wrong. He's got two working hands. (Crude enough? ;-)

I'm upset by how much people--not just Republican people--are *loving* this, too.

bryce said...

i just wish he wouldn't a dunnit.

it makes him look immature, silly & small & his politics diminished. as are those of us who believed.

annie said...

absolute power corrupts. absolutely.

now it's john mccain's turn. tell us about when cindy was the other woman, johnny.

JoJo said...

Kristin - well said....I agree w/ all of it. I am disgusted and disappointed in John Edwards and it makes me so mad b/c I liked him so much. He let us all down. :(

Dave Dubya said...

While the media vultures pick the bones off this story, they will NEVER admit Johnny (elitist-aristocratic-son-of-the-military industrial complex) McCain is just as guilty of the same behavior.

It would disqualify a Democrat but not McCain.

It's the sickening double standard they so blatantly give to the right wingers.

There's your conservative "values".

Octogalore said...

Great post. Lucky for him, Hunter's reps are now saying they won't need a pat test, coincidentally shortly after his offer to do one. Hmm, payoff anyone?

mikeb302000 said...

The European way is to not pay so much attention to the private sexual lives of public figures. I think it's better. Part of the disappointment, I think, is that sometimes we put these guys up on pedestals. They're only human. Besides, who are we to judge?