Friday, August 08, 2008

Edwards scandal

Today I've heard about little besides John Edwards' affair. The story has even outweighed coverage of the opening of the Olympics and certainly pushed the biggest news of the day, the war now being fought between Russia and Georgia onto the back pages.

As I said in another post about a week ago regarding tabloids, I was initially skeptical of the story but when Edwards was caught visiting a hotel where the woman in question (identified as Rielle Hunter, who went by the professional name Lisa Druck) had a room I quit being skeptical. One of Edwards biggest political assets has been that he was scandal-free. That served him well when he first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1998 against a Jesse Helms protege and the Helms organization, which specialized in digging dirt dug all around Edwards and found nothing. Ditto the Bush-Cheney campaign sleuths four years ago. So they had to find junk like the fact that he made a living as a trial lawyer or the price of his haircut to attack him on. So for him to suddenly become this stupid is dumfounding. And his interview last year, after the affair in which he looked right into the camera and asked that voters judge him on his integrity and honesty is even more amazing.

That said, the press is right not to be giving this much shelf life (I expect by Monday the news will be all about the Olympics, and if much else is talked about it will be the war in South Ossetia, the economy, the Presidential campaign, Bruce Ivins, but likely not John Edwards.) Had Edwards been the nominee of course it would have been huge but the fact is that he is only a former candidate. He lost. The next President will be Barack Obama or John McCain, not John Edwards. The story certainly removes him from the list of potential Vice Presidential candidates (and probably removes him from consideration as Attorney General in an Obama administration, which is good news for Janet Napolitano) but in that regard it is no more significant than the minor scandal around former candidate Chris Dodd regarding his Countrywide home loan. Figure Dodd won't be named as a veep candidate either.

What is interesting here though is that having run the Monica scandal into the ground for a full year in 1998-99, conservatives are howling that this isn't getting more coverage. Why should it? If this is the standard then one has to ask why the media only spent a couple of days on David Vitter (after all he still is in the Senate, right?) Edwards is now just a private citizen, and while the affair happened in 2006 while he was preparing to run for President that is now two years in the past. The issue of 'hush money' (whether paid by a supporter without his knowledge, as Edwards claims or by Edwards himself) may need some more reporting but it's hard to see how it will be a major story by itself.

I'm sure that Rielle Hunter will be featured in some upcoming spread in Playboy or Hustler, but at this point that will probably only be of interest to the guys who read that stuff.