Egocentricity catches up with Edwards

by Jim Longworth

“Who so ever is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” It is an appropriate phrase to recall as we examine the recent implosion of John Edwards and his political career. And yet, Edwards wasn’t just any man caught in an illicit affair. He is a very public figure who, as Dana Milbank of the Washington Post put it, “campaigned about the two Americas he had seen, and now America has seen that there are two John Edwardses.”

Edwards is a liar and a hypocrite whose every move was, and still is, calculated to serve his career. He only ’fessed up to his affair with Rielle Hunter when forced to do so, and then his public admission was carefully timed to break on a Friday evening at the end of a news cycle (and overshadowed by Olympics coverage).

And his public statement was carefully crafted — not to apologize to his wife Elizabeth (who is suffering from terminal cancer), but to make us think of him as the suffering victim of unfortunate circumstances.

To some degree, the mainstream press (who at first refused to cover the mistress scandal reported with accuracy by the National Enquirer) is still giving him preferential treatment. CBS’s Bob Schieffer related a private phone conversation he had with John and Elizabeth the night of the breaking story. Schieffer showed great empathy for the couple, but somehow forgot to call Edwards out on his continuing conundrum. Specifically, Edwards said that he had an affair with Hunter in 2006, then confessed his deed to Elizabeth that same year. He also denied that Hunter’s child is his. But if Edwards is to be believed, then why was he caught coming out of Hunter’s Beverly Hills hotel room just two weeks ago at 2:40 a.m.? If the affair was over two years ago and the child isn’t his, then he must have been explaining the two America’s to Rielle.

The truth is, Edwards is still hiding something, but he’s good at that. In fact,

he’s been hiding his real persona from the nation for many years.

He also is one of the most egocentric politicians this nation has ever produced, evidenced by his disregard for his supporters, his party and especially for his wife.

Edwards claimed to care about us ordinary folk, but in reality he only cared for ordinary folk who could win him millions of dollars in ambulance-chasing litigation, or who could advance his political career.

His short stay in the US Senate was designed to catapult him to the national stage quickly. And while many idealistic Americans looked to him as the next John Kennedy, voters here in North Carolina knew he stood for nothing but himself. That’s why he couldn’t even carry the Tarheel state in 2004 after John Kerry picked him as his running mate in order to do just that.

Edwards then created a poverty center at UNC-Chapel Hill and accepted a substantial salary (at taxpayer expense) for doing essentially nothing. One of the center’s staff members once told me in confidence that Edwards was seldom there, and that he was always out campaigning. Again, lots of folks around the country were enamored with and fooled by Edwards’ act. But last week, after his duplicity became public knowledge, those dissillusioned supporters left him in droves.

We all make mistakes, but few of us are guilty of the mammoth hypocrisy and arrogance displayed by Gentleman John Edwards. That’s why we ordinary folks are entitled to cast stones at this man, and those stones will slay any chances he has of affecting public policy from the highest levels of government. Edwards had been on a list of possible vice presidential candidates for Sen. Barack Obama, and perhaps an even shorter list to be attorney general. But that train left the station last Friday.

Yes, most ordinary folks like us deserve a second chance when we make a mistake. But arrogant public figures like John Edwards (who receives $400 haircuts and who cheats on a wife dying of cancer), don’t deserve a second chance — at least not one from us lowly voters. It’s time we paid him back for doing to us what he did to his mistress.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).