Edwards’ ego took campaign to new low

February 8, 2010


Looking back, the $400 haircuts and the ostentatious mansion should have been a giveaway that John Edwards really was the pretender his detractors snickered about.

But the presidential wannabe at one time sounded like he understood what this country needed. He sounded like he genuinely cared about working to improve the lives of poor Americans; to address international problems such as disease and terrorism; to strengthen families and encourage responsibility.

All the while, he reportedly was destroying his own family, demonstrating mind-numbing irresponsibility and lying to himself as well as the public.

In December 2006, I was impressed by Edwards’ message at a Dallas Bar Association awards luncheon: “There’s a hunger to be inspired again.”

I wrote that Edwards could best Barack Obama on political experience, that Edwards carried less baggage into a presidential race than Hillary Clinton. I might not have voted for him in the end, but he looked like a contender with appealing ideas.

Turns out that he was worse than a cardboard cutout.

By the time he came to Dallas, he apparently already had shifted into implode mode, and even key aides were bailing after he rebuffed their efforts to save him from his foolish selfishness.

In a January New York magazine piece excerpted from their book “Game Change,” about the 2008 presidential race, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin portray an Edwards who morphed from genuine guy into self-absorbed, self-destructive creep as he gained — and grew enamored with — national attention.

They also depict Elizabeth Edwards as imperious and foul-mouthed, hardly the smart, admirable cancer-survivor the public embraced.

Who among the masses realized the Edwards’ private life was more soap-operatic than Sarah Palin’s and more nauseatingly tawdry than Tiger Woods’?

At least the Woods saga included the perversely comic image of his wife hacking the windows of his crashed car with a golf club, not to rescue him, as initially claimed, but probably to smack him for serial adultery.

If the revelations of “Game Change” and a new tell-all by a former aide are to be believed, Edwards’ downfall is absurd as well as pathetic: He hired a bar groupie to film his campaign, had an affair with her and got her pregnant while his wife fought breast cancer. He denied tabloid stories about the infidelity — until much later admitting it.

A sycophantic assistant claimed the baby as his, then took his own family to live near the mistress, financed by a political supporter. Edwards denied paternity — until admitting it last month, when the baby turned 2.

The assistant’s back-stabbing book claims he paid the mistress from money an elderly widow sent Edwards in boxes of chocolates. A grand jury is investigating whether campaign funds were misused.

This man who wanted to be president apparently learned nothing from Gary Hart’s delusion that he could carry on his monkey business during the 1988 campaign without getting exposed.

Edwards apparently learned nothing from Bill Clinton’s ludicrous 1998 denial that he had sexual relations with that White House intern.

Did Edwards believe lies repeated on TV would absolve his misdeeds? Did he consider the consequences for his children: a Harvard law graduate, elementary school son and middle-school-age daughter?

Presidents and Oval Office aspirers are egotists. The tame and insecure don’t have the self-assurance to convince themselves or others they can lead the free world’s most powerful nation.

People cheat and lie. Even some of our most admired presidents engaged in scandalous private indiscretions that today might have done them in.

But self-awareness and good judgment are crucial in successful national leaders. The emerging portrait of Edwards suggests that, if he had either, he abandoned them for gain that couldn’t possibly have been worth the pain.

Edwards’ campaign Web site archives, still online, have this post from when he bowed out of the 2008 race:

“I began my presidential campaign here to remind the country that we, as citizens and as a government, have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters. We must do better, if we want to live up to the great promise of this country that we all love so much.”

Too bad he didn’t act like it.

— Linda P. Campbell is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. lcampbell@star-telegram.com


georgiahawk 5 years, 9 months ago

Do not trust any politician from the South! What they call southern hospitality is nothing more than praciticing dishonesty? They are very good at misleading you, friendly to your face, burn a cross on your lawn at night (metaphor) and friendly again the next day! It has been an eye opener coming here, I was raised in Kansas and am used to the "I am what I am and screw you if you don't like it" attitude, dishonesty about who you are was not a way of life like it is here.

1029 5 years, 9 months ago

"Everytime you see a piece on Edwards, your first impulse is to go take a shower"

Uh....so it makes you want to get naked?

Flap Doodle 5 years, 9 months ago

But for the good sense of American voters, silky pony could have been the Vice-President.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 9 months ago

just imagine what kind of crap Mr. Obama is harboring. He's no more righteous than Edwards, just seems to be greased up better so far.

georgiahawk 5 years, 9 months ago

Snap, I try not to stereotype, but when it slaps you in the face, you pay attention. I do not go into friendships limiting someone to these characteristics, however, it is what it is, and you best recognize it before you find yourself in the wrong situation. Just because someone is being what you would consider very friendly does not mean they want to be your friend. Sometimes they are doing it because "that is how their momma taught them" and their intention is something completely different, completely opposite of friendly! This whole black pres thing has got the southern white red necks kind of on edge! You do not want to be in a bar saying something that these guys don't want to hear.

supertrampofkansas 5 years, 9 months ago


Funny I thought the same thing. Tom has to go take a shower anytime he sees a "piece" on John Edwards.


Richard Heckler 5 years, 9 months ago

Yes bit let's concentrate on who is destroying the country not on love affairs. Repubs love sex scandals a lot.

Then again they seem to have a knack for the destruction of economies... a far more important issue.

Think about it. In the past 30 years the repub party has been in involved two major home loan scandals that effectively took the USA economy down the tubes. One is too damn many but twice represents repub economic policy. Wreckanomics is a failed economic policy. In fact wreckanomics is beginning to smell like well planned crimes.

The republican party have become masters at putting millions upon millions upon millions of people out of work. AND stealing taxpayers retirement plans along the way.

What Repubs do with a remarkable degree of consistency is wreck the economy,initiate huge movements of shipping jobs abroad aka the Reagan-Bush Global Economy and try to wreck social security and medicare.

Is there a definite pattern? Absolutely!

  1. The Reagan/ Bush Home Loan Scandal http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

  2. The Bush/Cheney Home Loan Scandal http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

  3. What did Bush and Henry Paulson do with the bail out money? http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

  4. Why did GW Bush Lie About Social Security?( This would cost taxpayers $4 trillion and wreck the economy) http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0505orr.html

  5. Still A Bad Idea – Bush Tax Cuts http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2001/0301miller.html

  6. The "tea parties" BTW are part of the wreckanomics program funded by the Koch Brothers... well known oil billionaires. These thinkers back a tax payers bill of rights which is another scheme to reward the upper 1% which is designed to wreck local and state governments.


All of the above displays reckless economic behavior that which drains the cookie jars. Now the only way to get them revenues back is to take them back.

What do Reagan,Bush and Bush republicans plan for 2010. Start the typical repub character assassination campaign which in essence is a massive cover-up scheme for the financial disasters that illustrate how the repub are NOT financial giants of our time have screwed up USA economics for the past 30 years.

tomatogrower 5 years, 9 months ago

It's funny that when a "family first" conservative is caught, these people defend him/her. I think Edwards was scum too, but it isn't a "liberal" thing. Just remember that next time one of your upstanding conservatives is busted. You need to condemn their actions too.

Mel Briscoe 5 years, 9 months ago

y'all know that i am what some folks may consider a liberal and i usually vote democrat, but i tell ya, you can't bring up how many republican politicians have done some unscrupulous stuff like it is going to someway, somehow balance out what edwards did. either way its foul as hell. a pile of crap stinks regardless of whether its made by a donkey or an elephant (however, the elephant's poop would be BIGGER but you get my point).

Mel Briscoe 5 years, 9 months ago

tomatogrower, that last post wasn't aimed at you. i was kind of co-signing what you said but in an indirect way. ;P (i'm a dork...)

beatrice 5 years, 9 months ago

"He sounded like he genuinely cared about working to improve the lives of poor Americans; to address international problems such as disease and terrorism; to strengthen families and encourage responsibility."

I never liked Edwards, but I do find the whole affair curious. Just because he was cheating on his wife, why does that instantly mean he was dishonest in all aspects of his life? I really am not trying to defend him -- no need to. While I know it is next to impossible to have a real conversation with some of the haters here, I would like to know -- how did his affair change his interest in addressing things like the "international problems such as disease and terrorism"?

Must politicians be perfect in all aspects of his life? For instance, with Tiger Woods, I don't see how people can possibly say that because of his affairs he is now a bad golfer -- so why does an affair make someone thus bad at affairs of state?

Also, if people are so upset about Edwards, why not evoke the same vitriol toward John McCain, a man who cheated on his wife while she was recovering from multiple surgeries following a horrible car accident, suffered while she was waiting for his return from being a POW? Despite this, he just keeps getting elected as a Senator.

If someone is good at their job, in this case the job of being a politician, must we strip them of that job if they are caught having an affair outside of their marriage? (Just some thoughts before everyone gets back to flinging dung at one another.)

Mel Briscoe 5 years, 9 months ago

no but the woman was on chemo for god's sake! plus now the reports are (ala the enquirer) that he smacked her upside the head more than once too. the man is moose booboo.

ralphralph 5 years, 9 months ago

The media won't go after a Dem the way they will a GOP candidate. Frankly, I don't think there's a dime's difference between most of them, but there's a Grand Canyon of difference in the way the press goes after them. Dare I say the "P" word (not that one) ... but the assault on Palin has just been stunning in its ferocity and persistence.

Maybe it would be best if every potential candidate was hit with that kind of scrutiny, or it might be best if none of them were. It certainly is not best, though, that the ones detested by the left are hammered ceaselessly, while the ones beloved by the left are coddled and their indiscretions swept under the rug ... can you say "enabling"?

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