At this point, offering an opinion on John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and two-time presidential candidate, seems like piling on as he has become a punch line for late-night comedians.
There are plenty who are finding glee in Edwards’ fall because he inflicted a lot of damage during both his ascent and his descent — on doctors he sued using junk science to make his fortune, to people who believed in his message, to the poor he patronized out of political expediency, to his now dead wife and their surviving children.
A decade ago, after accomplishing nothing in four years as a senator in Washington, D.C., Edwards almost parlayed a great smile and the $250 haircut into the Democratic nomination for presidency, but settled instead for the No. 2 spot on the ticket with John Kerry, who lost an election that some still insist he won.
That’s how close Edwards was to the seat nearest the Oval Office.
His story is well-worn, and there isn’t much left for Edwards to deny, although after being indicted on six federal crimes on Friday, he did deny breaking laws while admitting to “mistakes” — presumably having an affair while his wife was suffering with terminal cancer, and making the teenage error of not taking precautions against getting his mistress pregnant.
But he was convincing as he looked more than once into a camera’s red eye and, without blinking, first denied that he had an affair, and later that the child it yielded was his. He was confident that his secrets would remain that way because he had enablers, including assistant Andrew Young, who, despite having a wife, publicly pled to the affair and paternity, then boarded a plane fueled by about $1 million in gifts from Edwards’ cult, and led the good life. Edwards, despite a fortune estimated at more than $50 million, left it others to pay the bills for his infidelity.
After Edwards was outed by the National Enquirer, not a mainstream media that kept looking the other way, he clung to the fantasy that then presidential candidate Barack Obama would tap him as his running mate or eventually anoint him attorney general. His arrogance has only recently been in short supply.
We don’t know if Edwards committed the crimes of funneling campaign dollars as part of a cover-up, but we do know he is guilty of lying to investigators. What a court will decide is always a guess, and Edwards will spare no dollar in trying to avoid prison, although his public life is beyond repair.
There are still some who wonder what if, convinced that Edwards’ heart was true, but his aim was faulty. We say no, that the bright lights that John Edwards’ public pursuits brought were always going to melt away the veneer, and expose his lack of intellect and decency.
That he came so close to this nation’s highest office should make us all do as Edwards’ likes to do — gaze into the mirror. And we should ask ourselves how we could have been so easily fooled by someone so shallow.