Friday, January 22, 2010

John Edwards: BAD to the Bone

The great intellectual Paul Fussell once described the idea of BAD, as opposed to what is merely bad, as thus: Plain bad is something like a case of scarlet fever or a failing grade - something no one ever said was good. BAD, on the other hand, is something that can be seen as wonderful, prized, desirable and valued but is in fact pretentious, showy, stupid, fake and shallow. John Edwards falls into the latter category.

Edwards finally admitted that he is in fact the father of his mistress Rielle Hunter's daughter. This, in and of itself, was hardly shocking news - people figured it out. What was shocking was that Edwards lied about it and went through great lengths and spent great amounts of campaign money to cover it up in his quest to uphold his image as an erudite, virtuous populist. Edwards in fact was none of those things, and the scandal revealed himself to be a duplicitous phony divorced from the reality of his own personality. A glib trial lawyer who talked his way into a fortune and proved to be clueless on many issues - particularly foreign policy - that he needed a grasp of if he were to be elected President of the United States, Edwards showed a callous selfishness cheating on a wife battling cancer and walking around with expensive haircuts while claiming to be a man of the people. It makes his announcement for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination from a Katrina-ravaged neighborhood in New Orleans seem all the more cynical, and no less phony than when George Walker Bush went down there after the hurricane to help build a house.

You can come back, Gary Hart. All is forgiven.

By the way, I take back my criticism of Jim Cramer for his rants against Edwards. Cramer was on to something about Edwards, citing the hedge funds Edwards was involved in that enabled him in part to build up his fortune. He could sense the phoniness in Edwards that most of us - me included - could not. That's what makes Edwards so despicable - he fooled everyone with his white-knight persona, even his closest aides and supporters. Now I understand why he was so conscious about his appearance. He had to tend to two faces.

Edwards's outing as a reprehensible monster is an upward blip in an otherwise downward trend. As Paul Fussell wrote, politicians in America, like so many other American people, places and things, are BAD to such a great degree that calling it out is hardly going to reduce the level of BAD in this country.

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