Sunday, August 10

:: A Brief Word About Elizabeth Edwards

Given that the woman is dying, I don't think anyone needs to make a huge deal about this. But - while John Edwards is the real villain in the debacle he instigated, it would be a mistake to equate Elizabeth Edwards with women like the wives of Eliot Spitzer, Jim MacGreevey, or even, perhaps, Larry Craig. Those women woke up one day to find their lives had been thrown into a blender. Elizabeth had a traumatic wake-up call, too, but she had two years to adjust before the media set in.

For two years John Edwards - and Elizabeth Edwards - kept the secret of his affair, and went ahead with his presidential bid anyway. Knowing, knowing - they had to have realized this - that the story would come out.

We already know John is a big fat liar - but remember that Elizabeth too campaigned, asked for and received donations, dealt with staff - every day she looked people in the eye who were working their hearts out for a man that she knew was going to be road kill, sooner or later. They convinced people to vote for him knowing he was a dead-ender, when those votes might have gone to a different candidate. She listened to a lot of people call her husband a good man, a paragon of virtue - and she withheld information from them just as information had been withheld from her.

This is a tragedy in two acts. In the first act, John is the villainous doer of evil deeds. In the second act, he is still the villain in covering up his deeds and running for president anyway, but he is joined in this villainy by Elizabeth.


Kirsten said...

This is the toughest part of this story, and I think of the story of any couple that has gone through tough times that include infidelity. While I understand your point, I also don't think I can call Elizabeth a villain. She knew about her husband's infidelity; she can decide to dump their decades of marriage, break up their family, throw away everything they've worked for, or she can decide to stay and keep moving forward. Maybe this means demanding that he retire from public life. Maybe this means that she sees the potential of his service to the country. Maybe this means that she sees advantages for herself and her children. But she's been in this marriage a long tie and she hopefully knows the guy she's married to. I imagine that there were some really hard, long discussions about what they were in for going ahead with the campaign. Lord knows that in this day and age they couldn't possibly have believed that this wouldn't come out eventually, whether during the campaign, after the campaign or during a presidency.

I guess you get what you bargain for when you stick with a man (or woman) who's arrogant enough to think he's the right guy to run one of the most powerful countries on earth. But villain? I don't think so.

Nina Miller said...

Zips - I am not, would not, pass judgement on Mrs. Edwards' marriage or anything she should or should not do in her personal life. Its none of my business! That's not what I'm talking about at all. No no no!!!

On a basic level, the problem with having an affair is that you create an asymmetry of information between two people who agreed to an equal partnership. Instead of both marital partners having the same information and thus being in a position to make the best decisions in their own self-interest, one partner is withholding vital information from the other. (and lets not get started counting the ways this information is vital, but okay, I'll start anyway: HIV/STIs).

Where Mrs. Edwards done wrong - big time wrong - is that once she was informed of the affair, she proceeded to withhold information from people who put their trust in her (and him). People made decisions that will affect the rest of their lives when they decided to go work for Edwards instead of, say, Obama. Consulting firms made business decisions to seek or take work from Edwards instead of a rival campaign. People gave money that they might have spent on something else. Now that we know about the affair, I'm sure many of these people wish they had made a different decision. But they didn't, because they didn't have all the information they needed (and were owed) to make the best decision for themselves.

Let me be more plain. Imagine Our Buffs had decided to work for Edwards - left her job, left her friends, subletted (or gave up) her apartment, paid for storage, moved to Iowa, spent money renting an apartment there, and spent 6 months taking 2 years off her life (sorry, Buffs) by working 14 hour days 7 days a week.... would she have made that decision if she knew from the get go that there was no way Edwards could win the general? Maybe yes; probably no.

Plenty of people did do this, and Elizabeth looked many of them in the face every day and withheld information that would affect their lives.

Let's take the marriage factor out of the equation for a moment. Imagine you are the closest aide to a former Senator with presidential ambitions. You sign on to be his campaign manager. Shortly thereafter you find out said candidate was sitting on photos of himself dancing naked on a bar in a gay nightclub. Not illegal, not even immoral in many people's eyes. But you know that once those photos come out - and they will come out, because other people have copies - the campaign will be over.

Nevertheless, as campaign manager you interview staff, encourage them to sign on, ask donors for money, make speeches, and do everything you can to advance the candidate. And you never tell anybody about the time bomb ticking away in the closet.

The problem is not the dancing on the bar - its deceiving people by acting like you can win when you know you can't. You're conning them by withholding information so they will make a choice that is in your best interest, not theirs.

You could say that John cheated on Elizabeth; but then both John and Elizabeth cheated on their supporters. The former is none of my business; the latter is a lot of people's business.

As usual, I'm viewing this issue from the POV of a low- to mid-level campaign staffer. Jesus H. Christ on a pogostick, I would be hopping mad.

[Needless to say, I hope, John is biggest evildoer because he's the one who initiated the downward spiral and put everyone in this position from the get-go.]