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August 22, 2008

Johnnie Came Marching Home

Patricia A. Kelly

John Edwards has lost his place as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention. He is in disgrace. He cheated on his wife, and, not only that, she has incurable breast cancer. He is persona non grata in the world right now, or, at least, in the Democratic Party.


What he did was pretty dreadful. He is married to a person of quality. She is intelligent, educated, brave in the face of her cancer, loyal to her family and a significant contributor to the world, not to mention a powerful ally for him. He betrayed her trust, and betrayed his family.


He did this while campaigning to become the President of the United States. He had placed himself in the public eye, and presented himself as a good man. He and his wife both lied about his actions, in an attempt to protect him.


There are legitimate questions about whether any of this is public business, of whether this should have been news. A tabloid made it so.


If PAC money went to the other woman, there could be a crime. That, and the fact that Mr. Edwards had voluntarily made himself a public figure, gave the press some license, in my view, although I am generally appalled by the invasion of privacy of public figures.


Assuming that this was an isolated affair, it is certainly not the whole picture of John Edwards. If the stories are true, he has finally confessed, he is truly contrite, and is at home trying to re-build his relationship with his family. He is planning to spend the rest of his life helping others.


He has already been helping others, some very needy victims of egregious medical mistakes. Many decry his profession because he made a lot of money, too; but his services were much needed, and really made a difference.


John Edwards has also been a force for good in his political career. If he’s telling the truth now, he plans to continue working hard to help others. I think there’s a good chance that he will. I hope to see him redeem himself in the future, not only privately, but publicly. The wisdom and humility from that he can gain from this experience could help him to be an even greater contributor than before.


What he did was one really bad thing, not a life. I don’t know anyone who is so free of fault as to condemn him.


Thomas Jefferson fathered children with a woman that he owned. He knew that slavery was wrong, yet he exploited a young girl who was his slave. Many others, Jesse Jackson, John Kennedy, Newt Gingrich, Dwight Eisenhower, etc., etc. have been guilty of the same or worse than John Edwards.


There is a lot of talk about the suffering of Elizabeth Edwards during this time. John Edwards, in my view, was suffering, too. He had faced the loss of his wife, whom he loves. He had already lost a son, and was facing the prospect of having to raise two very young children alone. He was vulnerable to an offer of uncomplicated fun, and, as a powerful political figure, I’m sure he had many.


The idea of cheating by powerful men, supported and assisted in their climb to success by women of quality and talent who put them first, enraged me at one time. It is egregious, but it is part of the human condition.


We’re all fallible human beings. The powerful man as an aphrodisiac to women is an extension of woman’s natural drive to find a powerful mate to protect her and her children. As humans, we can reason. We do not have to succumb to such urges. It is completely wrong to betray a marriage vow, or to encourage someone to do so.


In the recent past, another political figure was caught with his zipper down. He was President of the United States at the time. He was fooling around with an intern, an offense that would have gotten him fired from any major corporation in America.


The people of the world were treated to a description of his private parts from another alleged mistress. Several others came forward to name him. He committed perjury.


His wife lied to protect him, and then, when there was no longer any denying it, “loved him with compassion,” which made her likeable enough to win a Senate seat representing New York State.


They’ll both be speaking at the Democratic National Convention. Go figure.


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