Edwards on Fidelity and Its Relation To Governing

Katie Couric interviewed the presidential candidates on fidelity last December–after the first stories came out accusing Edwards of having had an affair with Rielle Hunter. From the interview:

Couric: Harry Truman said, “A man not honorable in his marital relations is not usually honorable in any other.” Some people don’t feel comfortable supporting a candidate who has not remained faithful to his or her spouse. Can you understand their position?

Edwards: Of course. I mean, for a lot of Americans, including the family that I grew up with … it’s fundamental to how you judge people and human character: Whether you keep your word, whether you keep what is your ultimate word, which is that you love your spouse, and you’ll stay with them.

Couric: Do you think … what about people who use that as a way to evaluate a candidate? In other words, there have been a number of fine presidents according to some analysts …

Edwards: Right.

Couric: … who have certainly not been sort of exhibited the greatest moral character …

Edwards: Right.

Couric: … when it comes to infidelity …

Edwards: Right.

Couric: I guess is what I’m getting at.

Edwards: Yes.

Couric: So how important do you think it is in the grand scheme of things?

Edwards: I think the most important qualities in a president in today’s world are trustworthiness, sincerity, honesty, strength of leadership. And certainly that goes to a part of that. It’s not the whole thing. But it goes to a part of it.

Couric: So you think it’s an appropriate way to judge a candidate?

Edwards: Yeah. But I don’t think it’s controlling. I mean, I think that, as you point out, there have been American presidents that at least according to the … stories we’ve all heard, that were not faithful, that were in fact good presidents. So I don’t think it controls the issue. But I think it’s certain … something reasonable for people to consider.

Last night Bob Woodruff interviewed Edwards on his own infidelity. I found one answer disturbing as I could see dangerous ways in which the attitude expressed could influence a politician in areas beyond their personal life:

WOODRUFF: Your wife, Elizabeth, is probably the most admired and beloved person in this country, she’s had enormous sympathy because she’s also gone through cancer, how could you have done this?

EDWARDS: Here’s what, can I explain to you what happened? First of all it happened during a period after she was in remission from cancer, that’s no excuse in any possible way for what happened. This is what happened. It’s what happened with me and I think happens unfortunately more often sometimes with other people.… Ego. Self-focus, self-importance. Now, I was slapped down to the ground when my son Wade died in 1996, in April of 1996. But then after that I ran for the senate and I got elected to the Senate and here we go again, it’s the same old thing again. Adulation, respect, admiration. Then I went from being a senator, a young senator to being considered for vice president, running for president, being a vice presidential candidate and becoming a national public figure. All of which fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want. You’re invincible. And there will be no consequences. And nothing, nothing could be further from the truth.

Far too many politicians believe they can do whatever they want. Looking beyond partisanship I’ve often been suspicious of Edwards’ ethics and have believed that he has been one of the most dishonest politicians on the national scene of either party, saying whatever it takes to obtain political support, or earlier in his career to win a law suit regardless of the facts. This affair is just one manifestation of John Edwards’ immorality and belief that he could say or do whatever he wants to enrich himself and advance his career.