That seems to be the consensus among the media chatterati. Probably correctly, too -- John Edwards looks to go the way of Gary Hart, slinking off into the sunset, only to reappear years later as an unelectable elder statesman, distinguished primarily by writing op-ed pieces. Morally, this seems only fitting. Both men committed high-profile adultery, which is (need we remind our readers?) one of God's top ten no-nos.
Hart's press-baiting was more egregious, but on Edwards' affair was more profoundly wretched, if only because he cheated on Elizabeth. We love that woman. And his snarky non-defense -- "first of all, she was in remission" -- makes our gorge rise. So, yeah, we at the Egg are disappointed by Edwards, and don't think he has much of a future in politics. (And for crying out loud, don't pity the man: He's still young, rich and good-looking.)
HuffPo blogger Cenk Uygur fights the tide of received opinion, and complains that it shouldn't oughtta be this way. He makes a few points worth considering:
Does John Edwards care less about poor people today than he did yesterday? Would his affair lead him to change his position on NAFTA? How would it alter his policy on Iran? ...
Some will claim, as they did with Bill Clinton, that it's not the affair but the lies that went along with it. Really? ... Every man that has ever cheated on his wife has lied (and so has every woman who has ever cheated). It is part and parcel of the affair.
True enough, but not convincing. More interesting is Uygur's observation that John McCain's multiple adulteries don't seem to have ended his political career -- and yes, he's fairly open about them now, decades after the fact. But was he then? And Uygur doesn't mention a certain former mayor of New York, but we will, at the drop of a hat. Why has time rehabilitated these men, but not Hart or, as we are given to predict, Edwards?
Frankly, we are inclined to suspect a difference in partisan groupthink. To put it as bluntly as possible, Democrats are slow to forgive a man for cheating on his wife with another woman; Republicans are slow to forgive a man for cheating on his wife with another man.
If true, this is the result of their respective party bases. Democrats skew feminist and pro-gay, Republicans skew macho and anti-gay. So, once a member of the party faithful gets over his or her initial reaction to a scandal, there comes a time when the various cliches are repeated into his or her ear. Man cheats with a woman, Democrats mutter "How could that SOB do such a thing to his loving, smart, accomplished wife?" while Republicans grunt "Hey, men have urges, y'know?" Man cheats with a man, it's "Poor guy, forced to deny the truth about his nature all those years" versus "Another damn pervert, like Roy Cohn, Edgar Hoover, Bob Allen, Mark Foley, Jeff Gannon and Larry Craig."
Oh, sure, this is too simple. There are exceptions and qualifiers. Most Dems continued to support Bill Clinton during the impeachment -- but he was an embattled president, and to abandon him was effectively to abandon your own party and all its causes. (Note that in the Spitzer case, even the embattled-executive impulse couldn't trump the "his loving wife".) We'd be surprised if the GOP ever runs David Vittner for anything again, although in his case the rage may come less from adultery or lies than from paying for it.
But, even with some exceptions, we think we're onto something.