Over the past few weeks, the world has learned quite enough about
John Edwards – from the lies he told in trying to cover up an
adulterous affair to the compulsive vanity that left some people close
to him questioning his judgment and even his grip on reality.
Democrats who seriously considered making Edwards the party’s 2008
presidential nominee could be forgiven for asking: Now you tell us?
The revelations about Edwards, contained in two best-selling books,
have undermined one of the favorite conceits of political journalism,
that the intensive scrutiny given candidates by reporters during a
presidential campaign is an excellent filter to determine who is fit
for the White House.
First of all, I don’t think anybody’s believed that in at least 10 years, possibly more. Second, I have yet to see anything about John Edwards that convinces me that he wasn’t unfit for the presidency, by the standards to which we hold modern Republicans, that is. Unable to control his schween? Megalomaniacal? Out of touch with reality? If only he’d been named something reptilian, like Skink or … wait, I know, NEWT! Then he’d have been set.
While the media “usually does well” in vetting candidates, said
presidential historian Michael Beschloss, “Edwards is a good case” in
which it didn’t.
And that failure is worrisome in a changed political world where
politicians – be they Barack Obama or Sarah Palin – can burst upon the
national stage and seemingly overnight become candidates for higher
Isn’t it amazing how that can happen? It can just happen. Nobody makes it happen, or lets it happen, or controls its happening. It just happens. Such a changed political world, this one in which Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are equally un-vetted candidates for higher office who simply “burst upon the national stage.” All on their own.
Those staffers are the ones who should be held accountable, Marc
Ambinder wrote in response to the question he posed on The Atlantic’s
website: “Should Edwards Aides Be Shamed And Blamed?”
“It’s your responsibility to quit the campaign and not enable it,” he
wrote. “If you enable it, you are responsible in some ways for the
fallout. Your loyalty isn’t an excuse for that.”
How about this: Should the political press which gave more of a collective fuck about how and where and how many times Edwards was schtupping his girlfriend than about how and where Edwards launched his presidential campaign (surrounded by people working their asses off in NOLA, in case anybody was blinded by all the peen coverage and forgot) be shamed and blamed? I’d be more proud if one of my kids worked for Edwards, for example, than worked for Politico.
The failure to follow up aggressively on the reporting by the National
Enquirer, which has nominated itself for a Pulitzer Prize for its
Edwards coverage, has served as fodder for conservatives and others
convinced the media has a double standard when it comes to vetting
Democrats and Republicans.
Emphasis mine. Superior, classist fucks. Everybody nominates themselves for the Pulitzer Prizes. It’s how you get nominated for any journalism prize: Your boss puts your clips in an envelope and sends them off with a letter. It’s not like somebody else does it for you. I’m no fan of the NE by any means but that’s just cheap, coming from a “news” organization that hosts a political blog called theMorning Score.
Still, simply because the media missed the affair doesn’t mean Edwards
wasn’t given scrutiny as a candidate. Throughout 2007, there was a
series of reports that undermined the image that Edwards had sought to
project by contrasting his populist rhetoric and focus on poverty with
the reality of a candidate with hedge fund ties and $400 haircuts.
“I thought we did a pretty good job back in ‘07,” said Washington Post
reporter Alec MacGillis, “to the point where we were getting a lot of
complaints from them.”
Yeah. Nothing like stories about how much someone’s haircut cost to really take the fight to the enemy. Hot damn, Washington Post! You stay on it! In fact, the entire Politico wankfest only really mentions one story that directly undermines any of Edwards’ politics. The rest is haircuts and trashy sex, and if that’s our disqualification for being president, well, goddamn, Grover Cleveland has some things to answer for.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it would suck to be married to John Edwards, and I understand a lot of people feel personally betrayed for having supported a douchebag like this and I can’t say they’re wrong to feel that way. And the rules work how they work: A Democrat cannot get his extramarital fuck on and buy expensive shit and be taken seriously, it’s just not possible. But that doesn’t mean the rules as they currently work aren’t utter bullshit. Plenty of people who are good at their jobs are assholes, and I’ve seen very little in any of these teeth-gnashing pieces about how stupid Democrats were for liking Edwards (which is really the undercurrent of the whole thing, that all the voters were morons who were taken in) that convinces me he would have been anywhere near as crappy a president as he was a husband.