Spin Cycle

05.31.12

Why America Still Hates John Edwards

It wasn't so much a trial as a national cleansing

Twitter was on fire when word arrived Thursday that the John Edwards jury had reached  a partial verdict.

Video screenshot

All manner of abuse and mockery were heaped on the former presidential candidate, which made me wonder: Why are people so passionate about this washed-up pol?

Sure, had he won a few thousand more votes in Iowa last time, he might have captured the Democratic nomination, and taken the party down with him. And had John Kerry won another state, Edwards would have been vice president of the United States. But that was a long time ago.

Clearly, the passion didn't involve the campaign finance charges against him, which I always thought were a legal stretch, even though they involved funneling that Bunny money to his mistress Rielle Hunter. I was not surprised that the jury let him walk, even though he faces a potential retrial on the five deadlocked counts.

And yes, it was creepy watching Edwards declare his love for "my precious Quinn"--the baby whose paternity he ludicrously kept denying even after he stopped lying about the National Enquirer story on the affair. (And it was equally creepy that he asked his loyal aide to claim to be the dad, ruining his life in the process.)

The answer is that many people are still angry about the way Edwards treated his late wife, Elizabeth, whose final years were made miserable by his recklessness. The Edwards saga, as played out in the heat of a presidential race with his White House videographer, is a morality play, and much of the country seems to want the closure of seeing him punished. The case amounted to a national cleansing.

That did not happen in North Carolina, though Edwards, the slick lawyer, made sure to plead guilty afterward to “awful, awful” conduct. The ex-senator may have skated on the charges, but he will never escape the verdict in the court of public opinion.