I first saw John Edwards speak in New Haven many years ago, the first time he took his presidential ambitions out for a walk in New England. There was something not right about the man. He strutted like a peacock, pretty feathers and all. But when he opened his mouth to speak at a gathering of Connecticut trial lawyers, the only sound I heard was a whiny sort of squawking.
So I suppose I ought to be rubbing my hands and saying “I told you so.” He’s been indicted for playing footsie with federal campaign financing laws during the 2008 presidential campaign. The feds allege he took nearly $975,000 from a couple of well-heeled contributors to keep his mistress and baby-mama, Rielle Hunter, off the books.
But I am not rubbing my hands in self-righteous glee. Edwards is passé. We already knew he was a double-dealing creep who convinced had his staff to doctor a paternity test so as to point the fickle finger of fatherhood away from himself. And we know he and Ms. Hunter destroyed a steamy videotape of their passion. All this while Ms. Edwards struggled against fatal cancer.
This man who would be president wasn’t even man enough to own up to his marital indiscretion. Good thing he’s already made enough money to live out his days in obscurity. At this point, I doubt he could charm a jury into picking up the tab for coffee in the courthouse cafeteria. He’s damaged goods.
But a federal prosecution?
Were there Republicans in office, the airwaves would be filled this morning with cries of selective partisan prosecution. Recall the furor over the prosecution of Michigan’s Geoffrey Feiger, another high-flying trial lawyer with political ambitions. It took Gerry Spence to charm the pants off a Detroit jury to secure Feiger’s freedom.
But this is inside baseball. The Democrats are prosecuting one of their own. And to defend this man who would be president, but who has libidinal issues and a moribund sense of candor? Why the very lawyer who defended Bill Clinton, oh, he of the metaphysical subtlety when it comes to amorous dalliances – Gregory Craig, Clinton’s lawyer during impeachment proceedings.
This prosecution is hard to figure. It is as unseemly, and dare I say, as stupid, as the conduct it targets. Evidence continues to mount that the economy has fractured, tossing the now silent and vanishing middle class into the shadows, while bankers recover and enjoy immunity, and bailouts, from prosecution and accountability for conduct that makes Edwards’ affair look like little more than tawdry late-middle-age masturbation. Who authorized this expensive bout of bread and circuses?
John Edwards is not fit to be president. He ought to have a drive-time radio show, that would be the thing for him. Play the soundtrack from Super Fly and let him gurgle into the air that there is no love quite so sweet as that stolen. I suppose some folks would listen. But I am betting his listeners would be drawn mostly from within the D.C. Beltway and big-time boardrooms of the leisure class with money to burn. The rest of us, frankly, don’t give a damn about Edwards.
The money spent on this prosecution would be better spent making jobs, or perhaps investigating the folks who planned and profited from the mortgage fraud that felled the economy and cost many Americans their homes. But I forget myself. We’ve been told those cases are too complicated to prosecute. So instead we get this silly morality play about Edwards.
I am voting for acquittal here. Not because I like Edwards. I am voting for an acquittal because I like a government that chooses to fiddle while the economy smolders even less than I like a middle-aged Lothario.