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Wishing the Worst for John Edwards

A Commentary by Froma Harrop

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

John Edwards allegedly misused campaign money to cover a tawdry affair while posing lovey-dovey with his dying wife for the cameras. All this happened in 2008, as the former Democratic senator from North Carolina was running for president. Accused of six felony counts for violating federal election laws, Edwards faces up to 30 years behind bars. Let's go for the max.

Edwards aide Andrew Young has recounted how he did everything for the boss, from changing light bulbs at his house to claiming paternity of his love child by another campaign worker. Young told the court in Greensboro, N.C., that his love for Edwards clouded his better judgment. Meanwhile, Young's wife, Cheri, testified on Monday that Edwards knew all about the money being funneled through her family to hide the pregnant Rielle Hunter from public scrutiny.

Elizabeth Edwards wrote that she learned of her husband's affair early on. Even then, in a book published in 2009, the year before her death, she noted that John "left most of the truth out." A gruesome betrayal, but that was between husband and wife.

Edwards' grand infidelity was to all the volunteers who had worked tirelessly for his campaign. It was a slap to the folks who fell under the spell of his hope-filled message. (His fans chose to ignore that this self-defined "son of a mill worker" lived in baronial splendor.) Even his choice of mistress, the flaky Rielle, expressed scorn for his followers. Above all, his using a presidential run as a forum for down-market adultery showed contempt for the political process.

Those things are not necessarily illegal. Taking political donations from rich benefactors to keep one's mistress comfy would be. Attached to Young and his family, Rielle travelled with the group to Aspen and other fancy spots, before they all settled down together in Santa Barbara, Calif. Here's Rielle's classy take on the setup: "Not too bad, considering I was sleeping in my car a few years ago."

Master con artists don't stop at fooling the trusting masses but go on to work over the supposedly sophisticated. Bernard Madoff had his spiel down pat, and so did Edwards.

Andrew Young told the court that when he first heard Edwards speak, "He looked at me like he'd known me forever." As candidate Edwards became the only Democratic candidate to talk at length about blue-collar fears and the poor, many commentators listened intently.

One columnist following the Edwards campaign in New Hampshire observed, "The people who filled the Bow Town Hall on a slushy Monday morning were neither rich nor poor, but they definitely felt left out." Clearly intrigued by his populist message, the writer noted, "As Edwards warned the crowd not to 'trade corporate Republicans for corporate Democrats,' people nodded."

That writer would be me.

This guy's good. He's real good. In the ongoing trial, he has his elderly parents sitting in the courtroom on kitchen pillows. A homey touch, like when he says to them within earshot of the media, "Are y'all OK?" If I didn't disapprove of name-calling, I'd call Edwards a creep.

Is Andrew Young, as the Edwards defense insists, a liar who latched onto the politician for the money and power? Did Rielle blackmail him during the campaign, lest she go public with her pregnancy? Was the late Elizabeth Edwards not quite the saint married to a scoundrel, but a co-conspirator in keeping the misdeeds under wraps?

Whatever questionable motives others may have had, they sit low in the shadows of Edwards' towering badness. Prosecutors have thrown the book at him. May their aim prove perfect.

COPYRIGHT 2012 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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