Friday, August 8, 2008

The Breck Girl's Gone Augustinian and is Now Paying for His Back Street Affair

John Edwards the former Democratic Presidential candidate whose $400 haircuts dubbed him a "Ken doll" and "the Breck Girl," has gone into Augusintinian mode and publilcly admitted to have had an extramarital affair.

In an interview broadcast on August 8 on the TV news-magazine show Nightline, Edwards told ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff that his wife, Elizabeth, and others in his family found out about the affair in 2006, and he reportedly "made a point of telling Woodruff that his wife's cancer was in remission when he began the affair with Hunter." However, Edwards says he did not love Rielle Hunter, the woman whom was purported to have an affair with. And he still denies the Enquirer's report that he is the father of Hunter's daughter, who was born in February of this year. He says that could not be possible, claiming the affair ended too early.

In fact, Edwards' admission to having an extramarital affair may have jeopardized his political career. As Alex Koppelman points out in"Obviously, some politicians have successfully bounced back from revelations like this, but the circumstances in this case will likely make such a comeback difficult for Edwards. His wife's health obviously poses a problem in that regard, and the fact that he lied about the affair, leading some of his supporters to jump to his defense, may make people less likely to stand with him in the future."

Meanwhile, the blog Hitsvillenotes that there are now at least five separate angles the mainstream news outlets are missing with the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal story.

1) The National Enquirer’s creepy vendetta. How the tabloids work … the difference among the Enquirer, the Examiner and the Weekly World News … the Enquirer’s history of accuracy or inaccuracy … the logistics and costs of such a months-long effort … who owns it? … who calls the shots?

2) Why the mainstream press has dodged the story. The backstage timidity … the concern for Elizabeth Edwards … the Ick Factor … the inconsistency of whose adulterous affairs get written about and whose do not.

3) The silence of the lambs: Not anything you wouldn’t expect, but it’s worth noting that the the nation’s press critics and ombudsmen are quiet, too. Howie Kurtz, this is tailor made for you: Only you can investigate why you haven’t written this story! The one exception I know of is Jack Shafer in Slate, which has gone at the story several ways. But where is Tim Rutten? The Observer? Even Salon has offered only one tepid account of the Enquirer story.

4) The compromised intellectual honesty of the liberal blogosphere. Kausfiles is linking to a Daily Kos regular who got his posting privileges disappeared after he started writing about the issue:

I’ve been posting at Kos for a long time. As more news about Edwards has come out, I followed up with more posts which were also the subject of a large number of comments. All of them looked at the Edwards situation from my point of view; that is, a liberal who is concerned about the implications this story may have in November...Now I’m banned. I can’t write about ANYTHING at Kos. Can’t comment, can’t post a non-Edwards piece. Nothing.

5) Oh, yeah: Did John Edwards cheat on his wife and get another woman pregnant? Edwards hasn’t substantively addressed the Enquirer’s charges.* The most recent debacle, according to both the tabloid and a corroborating story by, found him blockaded in a basement bathroom of the Beverly Hill luxury hotel in the early morning hours after he was caught by the Enquirer reporters allegedly paying Rielle Hunter and the infant in question a visit.

Arguments about the Edwards’ privacy don’t hold water: Elizabeth already knows about it; Edwards was a presidential candidate; and the story is already out there. All the mainstream news outlets are doing by not writing about it is undermining their credibility.

Any guess as to why was America the last to know?

Now stuff and nonsense is just stuff and nonsense, but stuff and nonsense compounded with pretense and condescension is asinine. Now I understand that having a public figure with feet of clay has some scintilliating sexiness for sensationalism's sake, but there are far more pressing issues at hand that John Edwards' cosmotology or his pecadilloes. We are still stuck in a quagmire in Iraq for where's no light at the proverbial end of the tunnel in sight. We are experiencing economic hardships where people are losing their jobs and having their homes foreclosed. So why should John Edwards's sex life be of any concern for us? And for that matter, would it concern us if Dubya and Condi were doing the horizontal fox trot?

Bro-ther! As for shampoo, I use Infusium-23. End of subject.

8/9/2008 UPDATE: The verdict as delivered by the court of punditicracy does not look good for John Edwards. Case in point are these responses compiled by, where various distaff contributors weighed in on the Nightline interview with their own opinions on the affair:

Sarah Hepola notes, "And yet, what strikes me about today's revelation is how conventional it seems to be: just another hotel bump-and-grind, another thirsty ego desperate to be slaked. The ugliest part for me is Edwards' defensive claim that it all happened while Elizabeth's cancer was in remission...Honestly, having watched the "Nightline" segment, I feel nothing but sadness -- for everyone, including me, for having watched it so salaciously."

Mary Elizabeth Williams quickly points out, "We are one screwed-up, sanctimonious society, with more tools to rip into every shred of an individual's privacy than we know what to do with. I wouldn't want to be the dude's wife, but hey, I'm not. When we start blurring the distinctions between a person's life and his work, we can rule out FDR or JFK or Clinton (who is looking better and better, isn't he?). You don't stop being human and flawed and vulnerable because you go into public life...The two wars we're currently waging are what's immoral. The way that Wall Street and the banking industry peddled an unsustainable mortgage system to the American people is unethical. The No Child Left Behind Act is unconscionable. Where John Edwards puts his penis is low, low low on my list of wrongs I can feel "disappointed" about.

Joan Walsh adds, "All of us make mistakes, but Edwards' decision to sit for this nationally televised interview was hugely poor judgment, narcissism colliding with a sad self-destructive streak and zero self-awareness. All those fake smiles and facial twitches were hard to watch...Pleading his case to Woodruff backfired; he must have expected empathy from the Iraq war survivor, but Woodruff's wounded countenance was a silent rebuke to Edwards throughout the interview...The The lowest point came when he said of Rielle Hunter's child: "I don't know who that baby is." It's possible the National Enquirer got other details of the affair right but the baby's paternity wrong, but Edwards' dismissal seemed cold and tin-eared. Like most other political problems, Edwards' crime -- sexually straying with a campaign operative -- wasn't his worst offense; he shamed himself with his coverups: first the lies, and then this attempt at rehabilitation."

And while Kate Harding summarizes, "When the National Enquirer is the media outlet with the real scoop on politicians' lies, we might just be in trouble," Elizabeth Gettleman concurs on the Mother Jones blog:

"Perhaps the most disturbing thing about (the) revelation that John Edwards — in the midst of launching a presidential campaign — indeed had an affair, is that the National Enquirer was spot on, eight months ago. In his ABC confessional, to air tonight on Primetime, Edwards points out that the Enquirer got it right when it reported that he met with his lady friend at the Beverly Hilton two weeks ago. Edwards still denies the baby-daddy accusation, saying he is not the father of Rielle Hunter's child, though DNA may be called for given his truth track record here.

Makes one wonder, did the DNC finally have its act together on this one? Think about it, if his "friends and supporters" knew enough to perhaps pay her living expenses (which Edwards suggests in tonight's interview) then perhaps some organized party machinery pushed him out of the limelight just in time. I mean, the man with the Plan to Build One America, set out some lofty plans for this country. But Americans want their politicians faithful and straight (or at least as far as they know).
I have been following this sad story, admittedly with some gossip shame. But also as a member of the non-tab media who's supposed to toss away gossip rags as sources of anything credible. But the Enquirer, and Jossip, one of my new favorite blogs, have been all over this story. ( One link I sent to a fellow editor at Mother Jones got returned with the note: ", huh?" To which I responded, "Gossip can pay the most unlikely dividends.")

There is more truthiness than we dare to admit in the supermarket aisles. Sure there is a ton of trash and nonsense, but it would behoove all of us journalistas to pick up on the trail they break sometimes. Though perhaps part of the reason we didn't in this case, we like to tell ourselves, is, what a worthy politician does in his personal life is his own business. But is it, ever? And when they pay their lady friend campaign money to make webisodes, what then of the divide?
Two Americas, media people, the gossip rags and the rest of us. This round goes to the rags.

And the blog site weighs in on the matter, observing:

"It was decided that writing on the rumors — without confirming them — simply validates the Enquirer, a tabloid that’s broken celebrity scandals wide open but still isn’t regarded by many as a credible news source. And while the Enquirer deserves credit for some great shoe-leather reporting, the magazine still plays by a different set of rules than Politico or other outlets. And that includes the willingness to pay sources for verifiable information, which Perel said today on “Reliable Sources” was a tactic employed in their Edwards investigation.

So what lessons have we learned? We could rattle off a few, but it’s not worth the copy. You see, there’s no evidence here that anything is going to change. ABC’s Ross, who arguably got the “get” here, himself insists that unless Edwards told him his story directly, it wasn’t worth reporting; that confidential sources with knowledge of the situation would not have have been enough. Ross, of course, didn’t always have that problem. Neither did anybody else in major media. But when it comes to a Democratic politician, those rules have suddenly disappeared. And now that the cat is out of the bag — now that Edwards has fessed up to the affair — nobody is saying they would’ve done anything differently, which makes them complicit not only in this attempted cover up, but the endless string of scandals to come. Embarrassing.

Whatever you think of John Edwards and this imbroglio, you could not accuse him of refusing to take responsibility for his action, nor for mincing words about this affair: "I was wrong," he said. "And I am responsible." But then, what would you expect from a narcisstic personality putting on appearances?

Another day, another salicious fall from grace.

8/13/08 UPDATE: Just when you think the lunacy surrounding this whole sordid mess can't get any loonier (Think Rush Limbaugh, who blames Elizabeth Edwards for the extra-marital hanky-panky because she's so much smarter than her husband), on Faux News' Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity was a diving board jump away from the deep end when he tried to justify John McCain's extra-marital affair with his now-wife Cindy, saying he spent five-and-a-half years as a Prisoner of War as a lame excuse for his pecadilloes:

As Quentin Crisp once quipped, "Men get laid, women get screwed."

Pathetic, isn't it?

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