Thursday, April 26, 2012
A world historical schtick dreck
I have sorta kinda been wanting to write something about John Edwards but what can I say that you haven't already thought yourself? Then I realized that he does sorta kinda make me rethink my political science.
Had you asked me, pre-JE, I would have told you unhesitatingly that a politician's personal behavior and integrity in private affairs should be a minor issue in choosing among candidates. Ultimately, politics is about public policy. The reason it matters who gets elected to office is the extent to which candidates run on policy proposals and priorities; and to what interests they will likely be responsive when in office. Ergo, for example, the serial philandering of JFK and Bill Clinton, as far as I was concerned, was pretty much between them and their wives and children, plus whoever was affected on the side of the partners in philandery. (Am I the only person who has noticed that it is impossible for a man to womanize without a woman who is willing to manize?)
But the Edwards case is different, for a couple of reasons. In the first place, by the time he committed his sleazy affair, the context had changed thanks in large part to the Clenis affair. It didn't matter what Kennedy got up to because the media didn't consider it appropriate to report, even though they actually knew. Until Monica, Clinton's behavior mattered only to the extent that it might have cost him some votes among people who didn't think like me, but basically, he got away with Jennifer Flowers and whatever else he got up to so who cares? (There was an accusation of rape by one woman. If that was true, it would be another matter, but there's no way to know. Paula Jones's story suggests pretty strongly that she was miffed only because she expected him to continue to pay attention to her. But I digress, the point is about consensual behavior not whatever else might have happened.)
However, Edwards knew perfectly well that if he became the nominee, and the truth got out, the Democratic party would be crushed in the election, the party brand severely damaged for a long time, and the country and the struggling people he purported to care about horribly maimed for years to come. On that basis alone, his warped character destroyed any rationale for envisioning him as president based on public policy. His narcissism completely trumped whatever he claimed to stand for.
Beyond that, of course, using campaign funds to keep his paramour on retainer, and to finance an elaborate plot to deny his own child, is so sick you have to wonder what he'd do with an army and a nuclear weapon. All this while making what turns out to have been his fraudulent relationship with his very popular, seriously ill wife, a centerpiece of his self-presentation. This guy is as depraved as they come. So yeah, there is a point at which it does matter, where you don't want to vote for a bastard, even if he's our bastard.