Friday, August 08, 2008

This World Is Hard On Believers

Hi everybody. The title of this post comes from a speech given by Bill Moyers back in 2006. As a child, Moyers was obsessed with Tarzan's guttural yell and almost "dislocated his tonsils" trying to recreate the sound. Of course, the feat was impossible, because as Moyers would later learn, the cry was not produced by one actor, but by three separate men combining their voices--a disappointing revelation and a lesson that things are not always what they seem. This world is hard on believers.

As the news broke of John Edwards' affair, I couldn't help but think of that quote. Back before anyone had thrown their hat into the presidential ring, I was already prepared to give my vote to Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. But when he made the decision not to enter the race, I turned my attention to John Edwards. He seemed to be everything a progressive would want, leading Rolling Stone to anoint him "the real liberal." I liked his focus on poverty. I liked his message of the "two Americas." He had my vote. Or, well, he would have had he not dropped out before Super Tuesday. It's funny, at the time, I was angry at the media for their marginalization of Edwards (after all, a two person fight is a much better story to cover), now I'm grateful for the twist of fate.

Though I really did believe in Edwards, I can't say today was much of a shock, mostly because I've been taking in this story in dribbles over the past year or so. It seemed to first start as something of an easily dismissible whisper--false smears aren't exactly an anomaly in politics. Besides, the source was the National Enquirer, not exactly the bastion of credibility. But then those whispers got louder and more persistent and after popular blogs began to discuss the story's inability to get traction among mainstream news outlets, I knew it was only a matter of days or weeks before the whole thing blew wide open in the press.

When these kinds of things happen, there are always those who argue that this country focuses too much attention on affairs and people should be left alone to live their lives. There's a lot in that argument to agree with. But, I'm sorry, while we certainly shouldn't be basing our votes on infidelity (I'd vote for the notorious womanizer Clinton over the apparently ever-faithful Bush in a second), I do think cheating is morally wrong and cheating on your wife who has cancer is beyond the pale.

That, however, is not why I am angry. John and Elizabeth's marriage is between John and Elizabeth and none of our business. I am angry because this man, someone experienced in politics, someone who knows the climate of the country, had an affair and then had the gall to run for president. If he had won the primary we would be inaugurating John McCain come January and it would all be because Edwards couldn't keep it in his pants. If you're going to cheat on your wife, that's none of my business, but do not run for president. He risked everything, everything the democrats have been striving for over these horrid Bush years. Not to mention the possible stain this is going to put on his admirable poverty work. Oh, and, uh, the fact that he lied about the whole thing. I'm not sure the word betrayal even cuts it. You're an asshole, John. This world is hard on believers.

Our friends at 360 thought they were getting themselves a nice Friday night off. Think again, kids! Nothing like a little breaking news to kick off your weekend. And isn't Edwards oh so brave in coming clean with the truth on a Friday that just so happens to be the opening night of the Olympics? The show kicks things off with Anderson Cooper reading a statement from Edwards where the former senator says that he is "ashamed" of his "error in judgment," but that the affair ended in 2006 and the woman's baby is not his (a claim he's willing to take a paternity test to prove). Oh, and also that he had become "increasingly egocentric and narcissistic." You think? We're also read a statement from Elizabeth Edwards that was posted on Daily Kos (psst, Anderson, "Kos" is pronounced like "Markos") in which she asks for privacy.

Next up, we get a piece from Drew Griffin on how this whole saga unfolded, from the initial National Enquirer piece, to Edwards' denial, to a confrontation with a reporter that occurred at a hotel a couple of weeks ago after Edwards saw Rielle Hunter (the other woman) and Hunter's baby. After Drew's piece, he tells us that they've also found out that Hunter is being paid by the former head of John Edwards' presidential campaign finance committee who claims Edwards knew nothing about it. Uh huh. Then there's a question from Anderson that implies that Hunter might have been hired onto the Edwards campaign because of the affair, which I suppose is a legitimate question to ask, though I'd prefer they stick to confirmed fact.

From here we go to a panel with Jessica Yellin, David Gergen, and former Edwards spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri. Anderson echoes what I think a lot of us are angry about: "It's stunning that, if he had actually won the Democratic nomination, and this story had broken, he would have basically blown the Democrats' chance of retaining the -- of getting the White House." Then, making sure to note he's not here to judge anyone, he later expands on his whole hitting the nail on the head thing: ". . . what is remarkable is just the logical -- his thoughts -- the way he thought this out, because it's not as if he was already running and had an affair. He had an affair, and -- and then decided he could still run for president, and that this would not emerge." Bingo. Dude was living in fantasy land.

Also? The Gerg continues to make me want to elect him, like, king of everything. He tells us that we all need to be less judgmental of people's private lives, but this story is big because Edwards could have lost the democrats the White House. Jessica Yellin then kind of does her best to defend the press and their non covering of the story. I've been furious over non coverage issues before, but I can kind of feel them on this one, even if they do come off a bit cowardly. After all, it would have been pretty bad if they did a story about the affair and the whole thing turned out to be bunk. But how embarrassing to be scooped by the National Enquirer.

Speaking of which, we're next joined by editor in chief, David Perel, who I'm sure is just dying to scream "I told you so!" in every one of these interviews. Instead though, he talks about the money Hunter is getting and that hotel confrontation a couple weeks or so ago. Apparently Edwards went to see Hunter and her baby in the middle of the night and when he came out of the room he was confronted by an Enquirer reporter. Edwards then did what any upstanding former senator would do and ran and hid in the bathroom until security could escort him out. Seriously. Kudos to Anderson for making Perel clarify that his reporters were not actually in the room with Edwards and Hunter because he really made it sound that way.

On now to an Anderson piece that's kind of a profile on Hunter. She produced documentaries for the Edwards campaign . . . and actually, I don't care much about this woman. Moving on now to statements on the affair from both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Actually, more like non statements because they both pretty much decline to comment, a fact that makes me laugh. Gee, I wonder why? And why the heck are they treating Clinton like she's still in the race (we heard from Obama earlier)? On the blog, The Gerg heaped praise on McCain for "not seeking to exploit or sensationalize." Oh Gerg. Your uncynicalness is so sweet. But if you think he's keeping mum out of some great integrity, rather than the wish not to have this brought up in the press again, well, there's a bridge I'd like to sell you.

Back with our panel, Anderson notes that John Edwards told ABC that Elizabeth's cancer was in remission when the affair began. Oh, well that's okay then. Good lord. Does he think that makes what he did better?! The topic of conversation then turns to Edwards' statement that he would be making no more comments and this leaves the panel wondering how he's going to be able to do that if he's also left the door open to taking a paternity test. "It doesn't have to be on Maury Povich. I mean do you see this as some sort of public event or -- you know, Maury Povich seems like every episode they're taking a paternity test," says Anderson. Bwah! Oh, Anderson. I guess we can add Maury to his trash TV guilty pleasures list. Somebody needs a television intervention.

Next up, Tom Foreman profiles Elizabeth Edwards, beginning with when she met John and hitting on the big points since then: her son's death, her cancer, her health insurance reform work, and her support for gay rights. Everybody likes Elizabeth. She may even have been part of the media's reluctance to cover this story. It seems she'll be standing by her man, which is her business and hers alone. I don't think anyone really deserves to be cheated on (well, I guess unless they were cheating too), but man, talk about someone who really didn't deserve this.

Erica Hill then gives us our obligatory "other politicians do this too" piece. The big ones are mentioned: Larry Craig, Elliot Spitzer, Mark Foley, Gary Hart, and of course Bill Clinton. They forgot David Vitter. Yeah he survived politically, but so did Clinton.

The night wraps up with discussion with Paul Begala and Alex Castellanos. Of note is Anderson telling us that Politico is reporting Edwards is considering still appearing at the Democratic Convention. Um, hell no! Party leaders better not even let him in the vicinity of Denver. We then get this from Paul: ". . . there's something wrong with your head when you're caught in a sex scandal and you use phrases like I've been stripped bare." Wow. He's a bit of a nutter sometimes, isn't he? Paul later tries to put the Edwards situation into context: "But he didn't order that anybody be tortured. He didn't violate the Geneva convention. He didn't water board him. He didn't order the CIA to falsify documents to lead us into a war." True. But again, he almost ensured that the same party that did all that would be leading this country for another four years. And all because he couldn't keep it in his pants.

Thus endeth our unplanned live hour of 360. I suspect this is not the last we will be hearing about the Edwards affair--not by a long shot. My hope is that going forward they will cover the story responsibly and when it ceases to be newsworthy, they will stop. It's that last part they seem to have trouble with. The Spitzer story comes to mind. Not to mention their "one track mind" problem, meaning that when a story like this happens, everything else ceases to exist. Tonight was completely understandable given the fact that they only went live because of this story. But unless there are more huge revelations on Monday, blanket coverage next week would be ridiculous. Cover it, yeah. Lead with it, yeah. But don't spend the whole hour on it unless there are enough facts to fill a whole hour, which I really, really doubt there will be. I don't want to hear from Hunter's sister or the supposed real baby daddy's neighbor or some "expert" speculating on why men cheat. Kapish? But of course, dear readers, you know we'll be getting all of that and more. And I'll be watching . . . and complaining.


Post a Comment

<< Home

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from