Monday, June 4, 2012

John Edwards's Last Stand

The John Edwards saga is over.  A jury in North Carolina found him not guilty on one count of illegal use of campaign funding with a mistrial on the other five counts against him, essentially deciding that using money specifically given to hide a pregnant mistress from his wife is not a violation of campaign finance laws.  If this were the Shakespearean drama people insist it is, we'd be seeing Edgar help the dukes of Albany and Kent bury the dead. Please.  This doesn't even make for a good teen tragedy song.  Apart from Elizabeth Edwards's death - the only real element of tragedy in this story - it's more like a bad TV movie.  As fate would have it, we in fact got to see the whole thing play out on television.   
Edwards stood outside the courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina, still looking impossibly young (he turns 59 on Sunday) and accepting blame for the pain he has caused his family and his supporters - both of whom had been severely betrayed by his extramarital affair, which produced an illegitimate daughter - and mentioning his baby girl almost as an afterthought, as if his sin were a minor inconvenience.  His smarmy non-performance as a man chastened by hubris and available for redemption was so ridiculous, TV commentators couldn't help but laugh at him.  Edwards says hew hopes to use his legal talents to help the poor. That's because no one else will have him.  He's a good trial lawyer, and he made millions turning on his charm and giving good performances in courtrooms, but will anyone trust him to be honest in presenting a case? Can a client even trust him? Let me explain the problem this way - like me, you might think that rock and roll is superior to rap, but would you want Ted Nugent supporting your position?
As noted earlier on this blog, John Edwards is a fraud.  It is all good and fine to suggest that he wouldn't have had to hide his mistress from anyone if we were more like the French, but he'd still be the same blow-dried, uninformed politician who ran for the Presidency twice without understanding the issues or being able to discuss policy.  Chris Matthews revealed on his cable show recently that, in covering Edwards for the 2004 presidential campaign, he found the candidate to have no substance. There was no there there. By all accounts, Edwards was a nice guy who only became an arrogant bastard when John Kerry made him his running mate, giving the North Carolinian a sense of inflated self-importance, but one thing that hadn't changed was his lack of intellect.  While he did graduate with honors from the University of North Carolina's law school, few people know that he graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in textile technology, hardly a preparation for a life of deep thought and skeptically based reasoning . . . though those are the personal traits you'd want to have in a lawyer.  As his wife Elizabeth revealed, Edwards was not very erudite.  His only interest in books appeared to be in producing them; he "wrote" a book documenting four cases he tried, that is, he had a ghostwriter.  Ghostwriters are tolerable in some instances, but not here - Edwards is a practitioner of the law, a humanity comprised of carefully constructed and effectively used language.  A lawyer needs a ghostwriter to produce a book?
Edwards says he hopes he can redeem himself.  He can start by just going away.  Because no matter how much we would love to see Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, or any politician named Scott (forename or surname) disappear, we're likely to be stuck with them for awhile, but we can finally put John Edwards behind us.  And we should take the opportunity to let him know that in no uncertain terms. As so many have already said, in paraphrasing Edwards himself, God may not be finished with him, but the rest of us are.
And yet, in spite of all that, I'm glad he got off.  There wasn't enough evidence in suggesting he was trying to cheat the system.  Quite the opposite: it should have been obvious from the start that there was no case here  at all.  Edwards did a lot of stuff that was immoral, but he did nothing illegal, and this is a nation of laws.  Even Edwards understands that.

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