Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Nothing Like The Rielle Thing's Baby

Who needs either reality television or soap operas when the actual lives of America's politicians have more intrigue, lies and deception than anything appearing on the boob tube?

This week's location is North Carolina, not South, which has pre-occupied observers of romantic liaisons for most of the summer: John Edwards -- former senator and former presidential candidate (did that really happen -- or was that on an alternate Earth) -- submitted to a DNA test and is indeed the father of his mistress Rielle Hunter's baby. And, now it seems that Edwards is planning on bringing Hunter and child a bit closer to home.

At one time, the fact that this information came out in The National Enquirer would have meant that it should be ignored as silly, salacious gossip. Problem is, the Enquirer has been accurate about every aspect of the John Edwards story from Day One. They had the affair, the name of the woman, the details on Edwards' cover story. Edwards has been proven not just a cheat and a liar, but a serial liar at that.

Even the "Nightline" interview he gave last year which was designed to "clear the air" has now turned out to be a pack of lies.

But this poses the question: What does Elizabeth Edwards do? The Enquirer says that she's packing her bags and moving out. That would be hardly surprising given how she has been repeatedly publicly humiliated (some would say that she allowed herself to be). If she does, she would become the second Southern political wife in less than a month to walk out on her unfaithful coulda-been-a-contender husband. Jenny Sanford finally packed up and moved out of the governor's mansion two weeks ago, leaving angst-ridden Mark to figure out whether he wanted to connect more fully with his "soulmate" -- possibly in the mansion.

If Elizabeth does follow Jenny, this would be a rather shocking cultural moment in American politics. While divorces occur among politicians, it's rather rare for them to occur with public admissions and denunciations of infidelity. The Rudy Giuliani-Donna Hanover break-up nearly a decade ago was the exception that proved the rule. If cheating is discovered, the wife will more often than not stick it out with the husband (18 months after one of the most embarrassing public admissions ever, Eliot and Silda Spitzer are still together).

Perhaps political wives have reached a point when they realize being partners in a relationship means that they can walk away. Elizabeth Edwards was an impressive lawyer in her own right. Jenny Sanford was an investment banker -- and came from serious means as well. Even with four boys, she doesn't have to worry financially about a future without Mark Sanford by her side. For Elizabeth her incurable cancer makes the decision more difficult because of her two young children. But, after a while, she must be thinking what sort of lesson is she teaching those same children if she sends the signal that there is no consequence for the sort of behavior that their father has perpetrated on the family.

That's the point Jenny Sanford made in her statement after her husband announced his affair. Maybe Elizabeth should read that statement -- as she heads to the door.

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