A Letter To John Edwards: Disappointment and the Strength of Elizabeth Edwards
It was with great pain that I heard about your 2006 affair with Rielle Hunter, the woman who produced some of your campaign Internet videos. (Ironically, videos in which you touted your moral standards… sigh.)
OK, a politician cheating on his wife isn’t something new. History tells us that Thomas Jefferson fathered a number of children out of wedlock; Grover Cleveland admitted to an illegitimate son; heck, Warren Harding’s mistress visited him right there in the White House. And then of course there’s the Monica-Bill saga.
No, your news isn’t shocking in the way it might be were we not so used to powerful public figures cavorting and getting caught.
But John, there are a couple of things here that make me extra sad. You placed such an emphasis in your campaigns on family values and morals. You once laughingly said that, strange for a Democrat, you actually espoused them. Now we know we shouldn’t have been laughing.
And the thing that really kicks me in the gut here, of course, is Elizabeth. She’s been through enough pain already, hasn’t she? Your teenage son was killed in a car accident; she lived the nightmare that every mother of a newly-licensed 16-year-old dreads. And she got through it; you got through it together. The death of your child, something that rips apart marriage after marriage, seemed to make yours stronger.
And then, in the midst of the 2004 campaign, Elizabeth’s breast cancer. Most of us reading this have a pretty good idea of what she experienced. The physical pain, sure. But worse than that, the incredible emotional agony of thinking that you might die. That your children might lose their mother; your husband, his wife. That by having cancer, you can’t be counted on to be there for everyone; that you’re a failure at what matters most to you, what’s closest to your heart: your family.
Elizabeth’s recurrence in March of last year sent shock waves through America, and especially through the breast cancer community. All of us fear recurrence; and hers was bad. Not just a localized recurrence, but metastasis: it had spread to her bones. Back she went into the dark tunnel of treatment. And our hearts went with her, as they do with every sister survivor who faces this ultimate challenge.
Now, this. You. And Rielle, the video producer. The sad saga laid out in public for all to see.
You’ve admitted you made a mistake. And you confessed it to Elizabeth two years ago. She says she’s forgiven you; apparently you’ve both decided that this won’t destroy your marriage.
You didn’t have your wife by your side as you finally admitted the truth of your affair in public last Friday. You say you wanted to spare her the pain (it’s a little late for that, isn’t it?). But Elizabeth said, in a statement to the press, that "Although John believes he should stand alone and take the consequences of his action now, when the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him."
I hope, for both of you, that this is true. If it is, you’re married to one incredibly strong woman.
But we knew that.
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