I don’t want to write about John Edwards. You don’t want to read about John Edwards. And yet here we are, nearly two years after the National Enquirer first reported he had an affair with a then-unnamed campaign staffer, and Edwards is still managing to keep his private screw-up in the headlines. According to the latest reports, the former Democratic politician is maybe, kinda, sorta considering publicly admitting that he is the father of Rielle Hunter’s young daughter. Someone really should tell him we all already know.
Back when Edwards was a rising star in the Democratic Party, people used to say he was the next Bill Clinton. But even Clinton only dragged his feet for eight and a half months of denials and partial-admissions before coming clean about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. What they do have in common is that both men seem to have been just as afraid of privately admitting to their wives what they’d done as they were of disclosing their transgressions to the country.
If Edwards failed to learn from Clinton’s example, he’s at least providing a textbook example for future politicians of how not to handle a scandal:
- Don’t have an affair while you’re running for president. Especially not if your wife is a beloved cancer survivor.
- If you do have an affair, for God’s sake, use protection.
- If you don’t use protection, and your mistress gets pregnant, do not ask a friend of yours to take the fall and claim the baby is his. Friend or not, he will write a book someday.
- If you do ask a friend of yours to take the fall, do not also enlist campaign supporters to pay off your mistress so that she’ll stay quiet. She won’t.
- If you do convince supporters to pay hush money, do not go visit your mistress (who you have publicly denied you were involved with) and your child (who you have publicly denied is yours) at a hotel in Los Angeles.
- And if you ignore all of this and do make that visit and get caught by the National Enquirer and decide to finally confess the affair, do not take your cue from 1980s pop songs and continue to insist that the “kid is not my [daughter].” That will only seriously piss off your mistress. Not to mention your wife, when you eventually have to admit the truth to her, because this is the 21st century and we have tests that can establish paternity and even though your magical silver tongue made you rich and famous, you will not be able to talk your way out of that. Plus, the kid looks exactly like you.
Now, in addition to the personal drama of whether or not Edwards will admit that he fathered Hunter’s daughter–and, presumably, bear some responsibility for supporting her–Edwards is facing a potential legal battle as well. A federal grand jury in North Carolina is investigating whether the efforts of Edwards and some of his campaign supporters to keep the affair secret violated campaign laws. Why, that could almost be the premise for a primetime television drama…