Sunday, August 10, 2008

Legitimate -- and Illegitimate -- Outrage Over the Edwards Affair

It's pretty sickening to see the media going 24/7 on the sexual past of the guy who placed a distant third in the Democratic primaries while Russia is invading Georgia, two American wars continue to intensify, the White House has been revealed to have an interrogation room under the building and the huge holes linger in the anthrax investigation -- with comparatively scant coverage to these news stories.

But that doesn't mean there isn't something important to be covered and discussed in the Edwards affair. On the show on Friday, shortly after Edwards admitted to it, I expressed my anger at the guy, and we took a lot of calls from many people who felt the same way. No, not about the extramarital sex, which I couldn't give a damn about. I have no idea what went on between John Edwards and his wife, what agreements they do or don't have, and how this will affect their marriage -- nor do I care and nor should the media. And that is the problem: This story becomes one of immorality and infidelity rather than one of political betrayal, which should be first and foremost.

Sure, I saw some hypocrisy right away: Edwards having ridden such a high horse on marriage for gays and lesbians -- it was a "religious" issue, and thus he couldn't support it -- while his own spouse, who he is now saying he cheated on, didn't have a problem with marriage for gays. But I was angry more so because John Edwards was stupid enough and arrogant enough to continue to run for the nomination even after reporters asked him about this affair and he out and out lied about it. And we now learn that a rich supporter paid the woman huge amounts of money, apparently to stay quiet (though Edwards claims that he didn't know about that), and that his good friend, who worked on the campaign, Andrew Young, had an extramarital affair with the woman too, and may be the father of the child, though now she won't allow a paternity test.

How could Edwards think none of this would come out? I don't like that we have come to this in American politics, where affairs are hot news -- nor do I like the double standard applied to Democrats and Republicans. John McCain was having an affair with current wife Cindy while still married to his first wife, and he is alleged to have had an affair with a lobbyist while married to Cindy. And then there is of course the Republican Party Hall of Shame and Hypocrisy: David, Vitter, Larry Craig, Mark Foley, on and on.

But that double standard is where we are. We know all about media bias and conservative manipulation of media. We know what they do, and we proceed accordingly, trying to change it and expose it while also not, for now, falling into the traps. John Edwards, however, walked right into the trap and was bringing all of us with him. This is a critical election and he might well have lost it for all of us had he won the nomination, believing he could lie his way out of this.

As it is, the story is distracting for Obama and the Democrats and certainly will have some kind of effect, however inconsequential or not. I'm not judging Edwards on the affair -- shit happens -- but rather on his decision to lie about it. Come clean, and move on (as Bill Clinton did with the Jennifer Flowers affair) or drop out. But don't put yourself at the center and throw the rest of our lives overboard. The story here is about his idiocy and his arrogance. Those are legitimate things to be pissed off about.