Words Versus Penises

John Edwards can be both a skeeze, and right:

Mytrack record on this guy is pretty clear — and, occasionally, the topic of some hilarity around the home office. This is what I do know about him. John Edwards was the only Democratic presidential candidate since Jesse Jackson who went out of his way to talk about poverty in America. Not in an oblique way. Not as an afterthought after blathering for hours on the pressures on The Middle Class and how he wanted to unleash Small Business, The Engine Of The Economy — both of which, in purely political terms, meant discussing the not-inconsiderable economic perils of struggling white folks. Talking about poverty, and about poor people, meant talking a lot about black people, and that’s the kind of thing that Al From and the Democratic Leadership Council convinced a generation of ambitious Democratic politicians was a vote-killing extravagance that the party could no longer afford. I thought that it mattered that there wassomeone out there at least talking the talk on the big stage about how there are pockets of unforgivable hunger and want in this nation the existence of which should embarrass us all.

And, today, I think about the people in those places who may have heard the same thing in John Edwards that I did, who believed in him more fervently than anyone because of what he was saying about the people like them. Now, they’re largely invisible in our politics again, except as people whose interests can be used as chips in our grand bargains. If you want to be pissed at John Edwards, be pissed that he let those people down. I am.

You know, I really think Pierce is placing blame on the wrong people here. John Edwards did not turn out to secretly hate poor people, or advocate for policies behind closed doors that would create more of them, or in the privacy of his own home use poor people for unpaid labor, or eat them, or something like that. John Edwards turned out to be spectacularly unwise in placement and disposition of his penis. That our political media has made it impossible to be both a stupid manwhoreand fundamentally correct in matters of public policy is not John Edwards’ fault. Nor is it Eliot Spitzer’s fault, or Anthony Weiner’s, or Bill Clinton’s.

Or Newt Gingrich’s, for that matter. I wouldn’t care if Newt had seven wives all at once if his approach to governing didn’t want to make me tear off my head and eat it. If he’d shut the fuck up about gay people’s marriages I wouldn’t give a shit what he did in his own.

Look, I know this is the world and how it works and all of them should have known it as well and been smarter about getting their extramarital bone on. You can make the argument that if you’re that dumb about politics perhaps you should not aspire to political office, but Edwards’ sex mendacity is not to blame for our political media making his sex mendacity a disqualification from being right about everything else. Our political media is to blame for that, and if we’re gonna be pissed at anything let’s be pissed at the political press and a certain segment of the American people’s equation of “is not a philandering asshole” with “can effectively do his job.”

We are not going to be able to only have candidates who aren’t philandering assholes. That’s just not going to happen, because some human beings who are good at their jobs are also horny, stupid idiots. But somehow it’s only some of our politicians who never get listened to again after it’s been revealed that they like to screw around. That’s the betrayal here.


8 thoughts on “Words Versus Penises

  1. Perfect.
    It’s why Europeans have been looking at our “sex scandals” with bemusement for years. I *will* reserve a special place in atheist hell for Edwards because his wife was dying while he was out philandering, but his political ideology was better than anything else on offer. But look back through the best of our presidents, and you’ll find most of them were screwing around.
    I dunno, and I suspect most of the hoi polloi don’t. Maybe it’s something about having that kind of political power that at least in part causes them to believe that they’re entitled to fuck around. Maybe there are quite a few marriages where they come to an agreement to stay together to give the appearance of being men (and women) of morals, so as to increase their electability.
    But it’s long past time we stopped believing in that myth. Unfortunately, America’s hardwired for Xtian morality, and I’m not sure were capable of dispelling it, in our lifetimes anyway.

  2. I supported Edwards for exactly the reason you’ve laid out here. Thanks for this post. Couldn’t agree more.

  3. Mostly agree, Athenae, except for this:
    “I wouldn’t care if Newt had seven wives all at once if his approach to governing didn’t want to make me tear off my head and eat it.”
    …and EAT it? Ewww. The thing’s clearly infested with nasty parasites. If you’re going to tear off Newt’s head, just shit down his neck and call it a day.
    As for “why are the politicians such horndogs?”: Testosterone. It’s what provokes the aggression that powers them to where they are in politics, and makes ’em sex crazy. How they justify it to themselves (“entitled”) is just post-hoc justification.

  4. John Edwards gave not one shit about poverty when he was in the Senate. He used it as a campaign tool when he ran for president, and he set aside the tool when it was clear he wouldn’t be either president or vice-president.
    He bailed on his promises to the people of the Lower Ninth Ward just like he bailed on his College for Everyone program, which yanked the rug out from under South Carolinians who applied for the program. And he shut down his anti-poverty nonprofit, the Center for Promise and Opportunity, in 2008 shortly after Obama got the nomination.
    If Edwards has done anything significant to fight poverty since, I’m not aware of it. And certainly Charles Pierce didn’t mention it in that article.

  5. I was a John Edwards supporter. Whatever he did or didn’t do (privately or as Kevin claims politically), his candidacy would have changed the conversation. That is what really matters.

  6. Indeed. If you advocate for the wealthy and powerful, nothing is sufficient to discredit you. If you advocate for the poor and powerless, ANYTHING is sufficient to discredit you.

  7. Yes, the point is how much this kind of behavior does not matter for conservatives — IOKIYAR.
    With Edwards, his entire political ethos was built so much on a personal story about integrity and family that to see him as a sleazeball completely destroyed his persona.
    However, there are traditional-values-family-Jesus-flag Republicans who are allowed to continue the act even after being exposed as creeps.
    So, it’s not just an unfortunate coincidence that Edwards was the only one talking about poverty. It’s a big part of why the scandal ended him.

  8. zombie reagan might be dying, but poverty, persistant poor are not going to be a rallying cry due to the middle’s poverty fatigue. the middle is left out. the rich get theirs, the govt helps lazy poor. division.

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