Saturday, August 09, 2008

John Edwards: The Heartbreak Kid

I was a child of the 80's. I turned 18 in 1991 and attended my first political rally soon after.

I had been, for some time, aware of my idealistic and somewhat naive view of politics. But I also knew the issues that resonated with me, the things I felt were most important, and how I felt about our current political leaders. Shaking Mr. Clinton's hand during that rally in Westlake only cemented the fact that I'd be voting for him come November. I felt like anything could happen, we could change the world. . .

Then, Monica happened.

Admittedly, I was let down. However, I stood on my laurels (however naive they were) and I was vocal about the fact that a person's private life should in no way affect their professional life, or so I thought at the time what with all the life experience I had.

Last night, watching Nightline, that same sick feeling crept up again. I had anticipated watching Bob Woodruff's interview with John Edwards all day since the news broke about his affair and possible love child. I really, really wanted that interview to quiet the unease and assure me that this man, this incredible leader that I believed in with my whole heart, the person who I hoped would make it all the way to the election, was still the same man I'd listened to and believed in during the beginning.

He isn't.

I sat there and watched as he back peddled and dodged questions by Mr. Woodruff, whom he'd invited into his home to give this interview. Obviously, he knew what he wanted to say and responding off the cuff to some very pointed, very simple questions was not part of his plan. It didn't take long for all my hopes and dreams for John Edwards ever making a difference and making good on the promises he spoke, to be flushed down the toilet. And that same old disappointed feeling was back.

I go back and forth on the whole "marital indiscretion" thing when it comes to our leaders. On the one hand, I figure, if they are honest with their spouses than that is all that should matter. What goes on between two people in their marriage is just that, between two people (technically, I suppose a third party would also have to be involved if we're talking about an affair). However, the way in which a public figure handles his/her indiscretions makes a huge difference in how the entire situation plays out and how they are viewed. If handled with the right combination of grace and humility, sometimes the public will overlook the indiscretion and/or behavior and focus only on that leader's strengths.

Part of me holds the media responsible. If it weren't for all of the coverage and the digging into people's private matters, we would be left in the dark, like we were before the invention of digital media at our fingertips and the increasing interest in turning public figures into paparazzi targets. We all know that several if not the majority of great leaders have had less than perfect private lives. What bearing does this have on how they lead? Who knows. Yes, we want our elected officials and those representing our country in the world arena to be as perfect as possible, but is this realistic? Can a leader be excellent at leading and horrible at his or her personal life?

I would love to know what you think about this and whether or not the recent developments in the Edwards' personal lives has changed how you feel about John Edwards as a future political leader.

22 comments:

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

John Edwards has always seemed fake to me. Everything he says and does always seems very well-scripted and just plain phony.

My heart breaks for his wife. She seems like such a kind woman. It really stinks that after she has seemingly put this all behind her, the world will know about this and that she will have to relieve it all.

As for our leaders,they are all human and as such, they will all fail at some point. However, I would hope that they hold themselves to a higher standard and that their failings would be minor ones.

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

John Edwards has always seemed fake to me. Everything he says and does always seems very well-scripted and just plain phony.

My heart breaks for his wife. She seems like such a kind woman. It really stinks that after she has seemingly put this all behind her, the world will know about this and that she will have to relieve it all.

As for our leaders,they are all human and as such, they will all fail at some point. However, I would hope that they hold themselves to a higher standard and that their failings would be minor ones.

painted maypole said...

i'm pissed off. i voted for him last go around, although this time Obama edged him out for me, although I still really liked him. But the way he has handled this? horrifying!

i agree that marital indescretions should be an issue only within the family, and that we shouldn't have to make such a big deal about it. HOWEVER, that is not how our world works, and Edwards KNOWS that. His behavior was STUPID and NEGLEGENT - not just to his wife but to his COUNTRY. if he were the presumptive nominee right now? The democrats would be handing the election to the republicans. YOU CAN NOT RUN FOR PRESIDENT AND THINK SOMETHING LIKE THIS WILL NOT COME OUT. And Elizabeth? she can forgive him and all that, that's great. But it was just as irresponsible of her to allow him to keep campaigning under false pretenses. I'm pissed at them both.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I feel sorry for his wife. She is the one that is being truly hurt by all this publicity.

I was never a fan of his....but this....is an all time low!

slackermommy said...

What bothers me the most is the amount of politicians that have affairs. They are in the public eye and we live in a world where the media loves these scandals so why do they risk it? Makes me wonder if men in general are having more affairs than we think just based on the amount of stupid politicians who risk everything for a fling.

Emily said...

I started to write a comment from an outsider's perspective but it turned into a post of its own... (sorry!) You can find it here: http://wishwaithopepray.typepad.com/wishwaithopepray/2008/08/the-john-mccain-affair.html

jane - mom generations said...

Honestly? I always got a skeevy vibe off this guy. Never really trusted him.

I do have a few questions, though... if being the VP candidate was what made him narcissistic and egotistical (by his own admission), why did he have the affair 2 years after the election ended? After he and Kerry lost the election, one would think that a bit of the ego bubble would have burst.

Also, if THAT made him egotistical and narcissistic, what would being the president have made him!? Yikes.

Also, what else is he lying about?

stephanie (bad mom) said...

I am torn - yes, private family situation, but this kind of indiscretion could be detrimental in a political arena. Who one chooses to trust about anything makes a big difference in politics - so becoming intimately involved with someone who is not your husband/wife means you're a) lying and b) potentially letting slip sensitive information/details to one more person.

Everyone has lapses in judgement, makes mistakes, et cetera. It is how damning those lapses are and how you deal with the mistakes that matters. Covering up, lying, waffling, not taking responsibility are poor ways of dealing.

Wendy said...

I don't really blame the media. I think once it looked like people had a line on the truth (or a big part of it), he should have come clean instead of denying and thinking he could get away with it. Clinton did the same thing. These guys get so arrogant, having people cater to them and "yes" them. It's just harder and harder to cover up things these days, and the sooner they realize it, the better. Fess up and move on, I say.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It seems to me that all the characteristics of a good politician--charisma, ego, etc. are the same characteristics of people who have affairs.

I think that may be why the wives are more forgiving than the public. They know their husbands (the good and the bad) better than we do.

Kyla said...

I've heard lots of talk that it SHOULDN'T matter...but to me? It does. I think that INTEGRITY is INTEGRITY, whether in leading your family or a country. These things do make me have second thoughts, even if the majority of people say it shouldn't.

carrie said...

Loving the conversation ladies . . .

To me, it isn't the actual "deed" that has ruined Edwards in my eyes, it's the way he is handling it. I think Clinton handled it with a thousand times more grace and yes, they both lied, they are both slime balls for doing it - but I didn't stop believing Clinton when it happened to him because of the way he navigated the shitstorm following. Edwards is floundering, in my opinion, and I don't like his attitude - it's like he's had a personality change and I think that's why I'm so disillusioned by him now. :(

Belle said...

I'm heartbroken...and mad! At the beginning of this campaign, John Edwards would have been MY candidate. I desperately wanted to believe in his grand platitudes...politics can be such an ugly thing...I REALLY wanted to believe. Nobody's perfect in this world but for a public figure to behave in such a way and feel that he or she is so MIGHTY that the behavior won't be discovered eventually...well, they just aren't as smart as they think they are. I agree with you that a person's personal life is just that, but I don't blame the media. John Edwards made fools out of his parents, cancer-stricken wife, children and supporters, not to mention himself. I just profoundly PROFOUNDLY disappointed.

Auds at Barking Mad said...

I think Kyla said it best...Integrity is integrity.

As an aside though, I have always thought Edwards' outer persona was just a facade and he was no more special than other silver-tongued politicians. But it still is disapointing, especially because his wife was going through something traumatic, something that will eventually kill her and all he could think about was himself.

Pathetic.

Birdie said...

This is so well written!

I was never a huge Edwards believer, but I always saw him as well meaning and someone who was on "our side"...That he had an affair, meh, I see that as a character flaw, but not necessarily a damning one.

However, the fact that he lied about it repeatedly...that's a dealbreaker. If someone's on to you, then 'fess up. Have some backbone, for pete's sake.

LindaJ said...

The lying, I'm not too excited about. The fact that he had an affair, not so shocking. It has been going on since the beginning of time in the political arena. I'm sure that some of our most respected presidents did the same thing, it just wasn't flashed on the news or wrote in the history books. Heck, it wasn't for years that we found out that T. Jefferson has a love child with one of his slaves during his first term as president.....again going back to my point, it has been going on forever and will continue. Is it right? No. I get less and less shocked by it.

I just say, with the access to information we have these days, cameras, media people, and internet a person in his position needs to either keep it in his pants or get better at hiding it.

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

Dissappointing. Disappointed. Not surprised.

My heart goes out for his wife and kids. I won't be surprised if the child turns out to be his.

Rock the Cradle said...

Yes, people can be brilliant in one arena and absolute morons in others. And it's not restricted to politicians. It could be anyone who is ambitious: artists, scientists, actors, writers, musicians...I'm sure anyone can think of an example of a person in any one of these professions who was lousy at personal relationships.

It doesn't negate the good work that they have done though. It just means they are flawed. Like everyone else on the planet.

I say this coming from a relatively neutral opinion of Edwards.

Jen said...

I think it is very idealistic to think that a man in power is not going to cheat. I'm not saying it is right or should be accepted, but I am just not surprised. I wouldn't be surprised to hear of any politician or celebrity involved in an adultery scandal. The problem I have is when older kids and teens hear about it and it. I was teaching 5th grade at the time of the Lewinsky mess and it was so sad to know that these children were being taught that it is ok for the president to do such things. I just wish they would try to set a better example. And more importantly, I wish the wives would say what they are really thinking on these press conferences. It drives me CRAZY when they stand by their man. They should be slapping him upside the head and calling him a lying cheating ba%$@*#d. That is what America wants to see! Then maybe we can forgive and let them do their job.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I totally want to hit him in the head with my frying pan.

The Scott Family said...

I wrote a response, but it got too long-winded.
It has thus become a post on my own blog...read if you feel inspired:
http://stephaniekscott.blogspot.com/2008/08/john-edwards-why-do-we-care.html

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

soooooooooooo with you girl