Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Johnny, we hardly knew ye

I was not impressed with John Edwards' performance on the ticket four year ago, but late last year he was starting to win me over. The callow candidate of 04 appeared to have employed his down time to good effect, like a conscientious trial lawyer preparing for a court date. He seemed more thoughtful and more seasoned, and I thought I caught a whiff of RFK, another unpromising youngster who cleaned up better than expected. By the time of the California primary, though, he'd bailed, and I cast my vote for the Swarthy Guy.

We now learn that Edwards was going for the gold with an ingot of infidelity in his recent personal history — and what an infidelity! My stars and stripes, this man is within a year the near side of my own age, and a character like this doesn't cause his deeper reflexes to scream run away?

Regarding the actual morality of the thing I am, alas, unable to hold forth: in consequence of certain youthful sins and indiscretions the Special Subcommittee on Moral Abuses long ago banned me for life from participation in the Olympic stone-casting event, much as I'd love to play.

In a perfect world, or in a better world, at least, than this pellet of muck we are obliged to share with one another, the lapses of our candidates might be treated with the judicious perspective an anonymous Chicagoan brought to bear upon the news that 1884 presidential contender Grover Cleveland was implicated in an out-of-wedlock paternity scandal:

We are told that Mr. Blaine has been delinquent in office but blameless in private life, while Mr. Cleveland has been a model of official integrity but culpable in personal relations. We should therefore elect Mr. Cleveland to the public office which he is so well qualified to fill, and remand Mr. Blaine to the private station he is admirably fitted to adorn.

Of course, Cleveland was a character of Cromwellian rectitude (lacking, thank God, the corresponding Cromwellian severity), and Edwards has shown himself...not so much. I do not fault him for lack of priapic self-restraint, but I take it very ill indeed that having let the Little Head lead the Big Head into realms forbidden to serious candidates ever since the Monkey Business business, he nevertheless partied as if it was 1968, and offered himself up as the standard-bearer for a cause far greater than himself, with the potential to put it at mortal peril. If this was done cold-bloodedly, then I cannot disparage his cynicism enough. If, as I am (perhaps charitably) slightly inclined to believe, he had contrived to persuade himself that the secret would not emerge, or that his candidacy could somehow survive it in a world in which Maureen Dowd is granted a column in the Paper of Record to vent her patented spinster's brew of the toxic and the trivial, then he is merely deluded rather than sociopathically selfish. Still, this remains a deal-breaker. I do not require that a president possess better-than average personal morals, but I do look for a better-than average resistance to self-deception. We have, after all, experimented with fantasy-based policymaking these ninety months past, and I trust that most of recognize how that has turned out.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Deborah Saunders avers that were she a Democrat she'd be "spittin' mad." Alas, on the evidence of her columns the past dozen years she's merely barking mad.

It is suggested that some in the Clinton camp now believe that but for Edwards' tainted candidacy the junior Senator from New York would have extinguished the flickering Obama campaign in Iowa. If this is true, then the former junior Senator from North Carolina should be entitled—not to the Justice Department, but to a parole from political limbo once a year on the anniversary of his providential interference.