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.


  1. 1
    Jerry says:

    I for one accept John Edwards’ self evaluation: he was being a narcissistic egoist (etc. etc. etc.)  Of course, he’s only saying this because he has to.  But I really don’t think it was about power.  In his case it was about adulation.  Fine point, I know, but there it is.
    When Gore selected Lieberman, I was very disappointed in his choice.  When Kerry chose Edwards, doubly so.  Why do smart, good men choose people who are so obviously ill-suited for the job of president?
    Please, oh please, Obama, please choose someone I don’t have to hold my nose to vote for!

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    I was thinking about how poor some of the recent VP choices have been recently. In the case of Edwards I was upset at the start, while in Lieberman’s case I didn’t realize how bad a choice it was until later.

    Kerry also caused headaches for me because of the timing. The announcement came not only while I was on vacation, but the day I was checking out of the resort and therefore only had a limited amount of time on line. I was quite busy discussing this with the Doctors for Kerry group. Basically the choice of Edwards killed off the group.

    With this track record it will be hard for Obama to do worse, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton. (Edwards or Clinton–it would be hard to decide which is worse.)

  3. 3
    Michael says:

    Personal life vs. Political life Yes, he’s sleazy. Yes, he shouldn’t have a political career after this. But come on. This is a personal issue. Leave it alone. This affair shouldn’t cause Edwards’ political ideologies to die with it. We need others to take up his goals and ideas because, as uncouth as his behavior was, his political ideals are still worth fighting for. http://liberalretort.blogspot.com/

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    “This affair shouldn’t cause Edwards’ political ideologies to die with it. We need others to take up his goals and ideas because, as uncouth as his behavior was, his political ideals are still worth fighting for.”

    Would these be the views he expressed in 2004, or the quite different views he switched to in 2008? The only ideology John Edwards has is to con juries or voters into doing what he wants by figuring out what to say at the time.

  5. 5
    Tom Flannigan says:

    I agree with Michael, somewhat–yes, it’s disgraceful, but, there again, it does not impede his ability to do good as a politician. At least he came clean (eventually) about it–Bill Clinton was floundering for months, trying to redefine what oral sex meant. And this is, as Michael said, a personal issue, and only a personal issue.
    As far as his ideologies, well, all politicians switch off and on–especially Democrats. This is bad, in that it shows a lack of decision-making skills. Yet, it can be good, too, in that it shows that they are willing to revise their beliefs if they are incorrect for the times.
    Now, to be perfectly honest, I’ve forgotten much about Edwards’ 2004 campaign–even the 2008 is still fuzzy. But, could somebody just fill me in on the differences. Because I still got the general vibe of “change” in both campaigns.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:


    This in itself might not impede his ability to do good, but this scandal is just one more example from his entire life which has been based upon conning people for his own personal gain.

    Back in 2004 Edwards was a conservative, DLC-type Democrat. Besides being more conservative on economic matters, he was a strong advocate of the war and the Patriot Act, which he helped write. Some changes in views is understandable, but Edwards simply takes whatever views are the most useful that day, like a lawyer who is equally comfortable arguing either side of a case before a jury.

  7. 7
    Tom Flannigan says:

    Ah, I see. Like I said–the ol’ memory isn’t what it used to be.
    I see now where you are coming from, and, yes, it does appear that he has been somewhat limp on his decisions. Yet, still, I think he has the best intentions at heart…though, you know what they say–the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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