Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's time for John Edwards to go away

Normally, I would not have seen the video clip (look about the 3:25 mark) of John Edwards being his smarmy self outside the federal courthouse in Greensboro Thursday afternoon. I would have read about this case instead of watching Edwards' performance, but I was at the gym, and I watched the show while I exercised.

Edwards had just been acquitted of one count of the six indictments against him, and he was thanking his supporters. He mentioned his daughter Kate, who had been at the courthouse with him every day (even though she couldn't bear to sit through some of the seamier testimony), his two young children and the son he lost years ago. And then he paused, contorted a pained expression onto his face and mentioned the daughter he had fathered with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter — the escapade that was in many ways the heart of this trial. TV news commentators sounded touched by and sympathetic toward Edwards' gesture. I was not taken in. The entire pause and expression seemed contrived and disingenuous. I've watched a lot of stage plays, and I've seen much better acting.

To appear to tear up over the mention of an illegitimate child while nonchalantly rattling off the names of your children from your marriage doesn't seem credible, nor does it seem reasonable. He didn't mention the wife he betrayed even as she battled cancer. That might have been a topic worthy of a tear or a trembling lip, but, no, the emotion was only for little Quinn. Was the faked emotion meant to ingratiate himself to Rielle? Is she suddenly playing hard-to-get? Perhaps it's admirable to claim and love a child born out of wedlock, although Edwards famously and adamantly denied fatherhood of the child on national television, but his show of emotion can't do much for a 4-year-old and might be interpreted as a slight to his other children.

In his comments, Edwards suggested he had other things he wanted to accomplish, even calling on the name of God, who "isn't through with me yet" (Jesse Jackson's famous line from the 1988 Democratic Convention). God might not be through with Edwards, but the American public surely is. The former vice presidential nominee is anathema to any politician and will never wield any political power again. His successful career as a personal injury litigator is probably also over. No matter how charming he might be, what jury could ever forget what a sleazebag he is? And he still has five indictments hanging over his head.

Federal prosecutors might choose to retry those five counts, but that seems unlikely. The jury's acquittal on the one settled issue raises doubts about the entire prosecution. Many have argued that this case never should have gone to trial, never should have been pursued.

You have to wonder whether this acquittal will have any political repercussions for George Holding, the former U.S. attorney who brought the charges. Holding won the Republican nomination for Congress largely on his inflated reputation from the Edwards case. With that case in tatters, Holding doesn't look nearly so dynamic.

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