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57 Responses

  1. Cara
    Cara August 9, 2008 at 8:20 pm |

    Yes, as an early Edwards supporter I’m deeply disappointed in him, and can only say that I’m glad I switched to Obama before I had the chance to vote for him.

    It is funny how quickly I dismissed those initial reports though, not nearly so much on the “but John Edwards is awesome he’d never do that” grounds as the “no one could possibly be that STUPID” grounds. Sigh.

  2. Renee
    Renee August 9, 2008 at 8:24 pm |

    I simply do not understand why people are so upset that he had sex. I think that it is puritanical sit in judgment of his behavior when everything in society promotes sex. It doesn’t mean that he is less as a person it simply means that monogamy might not be his thing. The only person he betrayed if in fact he did was his wife. This is a family affair that should never have been made public in the first place. Since we all have dirty laundry I think that we would all do will to remember glass houses and stones.

  3. Lauren
    Lauren August 9, 2008 at 8:26 pm |

    Politically, I’m pissed that he broke Rule #1: Do not hand your enemies the ammunition they will shoot you with.

    But personally, it’s none of my gotdamn business.

  4. dnourgrednu
    dnourgrednu August 9, 2008 at 8:36 pm |

    Glad to see a feminist take on this. Infidelity, mostly a male problem (though women can be guilty of this as well) hurts women.

    1) He was never qualified to be AG so that shouldn’t bother you. His only experience was as sleazy plaintiff’s attorney.

    2) Knowing what I knew about Edwards, this is not surprising. This is the same man who had an impromptu seance to channel a dead babies who died of cerebral palsy to get millions of dollars from a jury. I argued with people for years about what a sleaze i thought he was. Some people I personally spoke with who are involved with Democratic politics told me he came off very sleazy in person. I can’t remember the exact quote (it was in a Bob Shrum book) but Kerry was severely turned off by Edwards because of his sleaziness. Everything about the man has been self-serving.

    3) A lot of people take the whole “this is none of our business” line. I agree that it’s hard to know the inner workings of any marriage. But unless they had some sort of open relationship, betraying your wife who has terminal cancer speaks volumes about somebody’s integrity and trustworthiness. Also, was he inappropriately using campaign funds to finance this affair, pay her hush money, give her the big estate she’s in? He certainly paid her 1/4 of a million to do advertisements for him.

  5. amandaw
    amandaw August 9, 2008 at 9:10 pm |

    Ugh, Edwards. Fuck him, but on the other hand, I thank him for having run his race. I think this is about the best way it could have gone, really: run, not win much, bow out, then let the revelation hit. His run was a good influence but we wouldn’t want him to actually secure the nomination, whether this came out during the election or not — we wouldn’t be holding our breaths for three months, we’d be holding our breaths for four or eight years.

    I stand by my fervent wish that it were Elizabeth, not John, who entered national politics. She is an amazing woman and I think she has a handle on the process well enough by now to be an amazing senator/governor/president or even one of the high cabinet positions.

    He doesn’t deserve her, though I suppose we have all committed sins against those we love most, and we still soldier on. It’s a shame, bc he could have been a great influential figure, and so could she. Now it’s hard to see her getting involved in anything even if she wanted, unless she was to forsake him altogether, which she doesn’t seem to indicate (right now) she’s willing to do.

  6. amandaw
    amandaw August 9, 2008 at 9:17 pm |

    And Edwards did give some indications that he was not wholly in touch with political and, well, ethical reality during this primary. His “No health care for Congress til they pass UHC” gambit was risky, and its heart was in the right place, but it was also quite clearly unconstitutional and he can’t have not known that before he started pushing it, and kept pushing it regardless. There were several other little things that have slipped my mind by now, but around the last few weeks of his campaign I remember thinking, I’ll vote for him to make clear my *policy preferences* but I’m secretly glad he won’t win, because I don’t know how much I’d actually like him holding that high and powerful an office.

    Of course, he dropped out well before the PA primaries and I voted for Obama. But I still wish he had been on my ballot. In some situations, a spoil is a good thing.

  7. Roxie
    Roxie August 9, 2008 at 9:55 pm |

    It’s disappointing, although not truly surprising.

    It can’t be a good feeling seeing something you thought you were through and done with rear its head, which has grown exceedingly uglier than the last time you dealt with it.

    I stand by my fervent wish that it were Elizabeth, not John, who entered national politics.

    Ditto

  8. urbanartiste
    urbanartiste August 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |

    I could care less about politicians extramarital affairs, but my gut reaction to this one was – what a real sleazebag to cheat on a wife who has cancer. I don’t care if she was in remission (she now has some other form of incurable cancer) or not, he is a jerk. Add this affair with the fact that he did not end his clearly losing bid for the nomination after his wife was diagnosed makes me sick. He never appeared anything more to me than an ambulance chaser.

    I think Hillary and Elizabeth Edwards should say to hell with the men and run together for the White House.

  9. Renee
    Renee August 9, 2008 at 10:27 pm |

    @ dnourgrednu

    Glad to see a feminist take on this. Infidelity, mostly a male problem (though women can be guilty of this as well) hurts women.

    No infidelity is not mostly a male problem. Not only do women cheat they do so in high numbers. I further believe that monogamy may not be how we were meant to be and we have been moralized into living a life like this. The idea that we “own” our loved ones is a huge part of the problem.

  10. urbanartiste
    urbanartiste August 9, 2008 at 10:29 pm |

    Also want to ad how ridiculous it was that most cable news stations dedicated their entire evening of shows to this topic last night. There is a new war happening in Georgia. The Olympics started. They could not find anything else to report for goodness sake?!

  11. Hugo
    Hugo August 9, 2008 at 10:53 pm |

    I’m upset at the networks too. Where’s my wall-to-wall coverage of the missing tot, Caylee? Anderson Cooper was doing so well devoting hours to her saga, and then we have Edwards and the Olympics and the darned war. It’s almost as bad as when 9/11 got Chandra Levy out of the news.

  12. sophonisba
    sophonisba August 9, 2008 at 11:17 pm |

    The only person he betrayed if in fact he did was his wife.

    Yes. I never care if somebody hurts someone who isn’t me, and why should I? It wasn’t me he hurt, and I am the only person who matters. Who’s his wife, anyway? Just some woman.

    (The “if in fact he did” is crucial, because of course Elizabeth Edwards could have been in on it all along, just like Larry Craig’s wife could have been and John McCain’s first wife could have been. Totally possible. Right.)

    JE’s public statements about the matter show him to be a total prick. If he’d said nothing, we could argue that it’s a private matter, but people who make statements to the press are judged on those statements, and they should be. I am sorry for any pain Elizabeth Edwards is feeling, but it is not the fault of everybody who has an opinion on her husband’s actions and words. It’s the fault of her husband, who did and said those things knowing damned well someday everybody would find out, and knowing damned well his wife would suffer along with him.

  13. evil fizz
    evil fizz August 9, 2008 at 11:47 pm |

    but my gut reaction to this one was – what a real sleazebag to cheat on a wife who has cancer.

    It’s my understanding that the affair was prior to her diagnosis, but it’s still sad.

  14. Renee
    Renee August 9, 2008 at 11:48 pm |

    @sophonisba

    Yes. I never care if somebody hurts someone who isn’t me, and why should I? It wasn’t me he hurt, and I am the only person who matters. Who’s his wife, anyway? Just some woman.

    I watched the news and did not hear her ask for sympathy from anyone. You are projecting your feelings about monogamy on her. The only thing she asked for is privacy. period. You are not privy to the private conversations of the marriage so you should not assume anything, futhermore portraying her as this poor victim is the last thing I think that a woman like her would want..

    f he’d said nothing, we could argue that it’s a private matter, but people who make statements to the press are judged on those statements, and they should be

    He had no intention in revealing the matter to the press. It was the press that continually pushed the issue in an effort to profit from smut trafficking and voyeurism. To believe that he did something wrong is to assume that monogamy is the only or natural way to live. Many live polyamourous lives and are happy with it. Perhaps if people were not pushed into choosing the picket fence and 1.2 kids situations like this would not happen in the first place. Love and sex are two very different animals we have only conflated the two in order to control and discipline it. Remember that the notion of romantic love itself is historically speaking a new concept.

  15. Lisa
    Lisa August 10, 2008 at 12:01 am |

    “You are projecting your feelings about monogamy on her.”
    Actually, Renee, I think you’re the one who’s projecting here. We’re not talking about some couple who had some philosophically based commitment to an open-relationship. We’re talking about a married couple with children, who had NO SUCH ARRANGEMENT – and Edwards did this behind his wife’s back. Your feelings about how “socially constructed” monogamy is aren’t very helpful or relevant.

  16. Cara
    Cara August 10, 2008 at 12:06 am |

    Renee — I agree that people can live non-monogamous lives, and it is indeed possible that John and Elizabeth do not have a monogamous relationship. It is certainly the impression they give, though, particularly with their both expressing John’s relationship was wrong — even if it’s true that with our culture, it’d be hard for them to come out with it if they weren’t monogamous. But the fact is that a large majority of married Americans are not in open relationships, and I don’t think that we should be giving Edwards any passes on this when he did the whole opposing same-sex marriage for religious reasons thing, even if he was in an open marriage. The hypocrisy isn’t quite up there with Vitter, but it’s still hypocrisy.

    Again, the reason that I’m mainly upset is what Lauren said — giving his opponents perfect ammunition. I think that Edwards is a really shitty guy for what seems to have been his cheating on his wife who had cancer (it wasn’t prior to her diagnosis of cancer, it was prior to her current diagnosis of fatal cancer). But you’re right that as far as things go, it’s not really my business in that respect. It’s more my business because of the political impact, and with the culture we live in, sadly these things are used as political argument.

  17. Kristin
    Kristin August 10, 2008 at 12:15 am |

    This was the response to Elizabeth Edwards that I posted as a comment on her post at the Daily Kos. At the end of the day, you know, all I can say is that I’m really glad that he didn’t win the nomination:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    First of all, I am so sorry that you’re having to go through this in addition to the unscrupulous media coverage in these years. I have always been very impressed by you, and that hasn’t changed. I hope that this isn’t taking a terrible toll on your health, and I extend my support.

    You know… I’ve been following John Edwards’ rise ever since he became our NC senator. I’ve been a supporter ever since I heard him speak at my 2002 graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill. I was what I’d call something of a True Believer for a while, and I enthusiastically supported him in both primaries. At one time, I thought very hard about leaving graduate school in order to work for the campaign because I believed in it more than I believed in those of the other two candidates. His populism and economic positions were closer to my own than those of the other candidates, and I believed that he had a good chance of winning a general election.

    You might not want to hear this, but at the back of my mind, I always wished that you, Elizabeth, were the one who was running for public office. You came across as stronger and tougher, and while John sometimes seems as if he is reciting a disingenuous script, I never once had any doubts about you. And, as a queer person who grew up in the very homophobic community that you yourself come from, I particularly appreciated it when you stood up to John and took a stand in favor of gay marriage. Thank you for that.

    I am disappointed by this news, first because I feel very indignant on your behalf. I am angry at John for doing this, and I am going to have a hard time getting past this anger if he continues to treat us as if we are stupid. I watched the Nightline interview last night, and I thought there were too many details that just didn’t jive: from John’s claim that he knew nothing about the fact that his friend was fueling money to Rielle Hunter to the outright dismissal of the possibility that this could be his child to the suggestion that he visited Hunter’s hotel room so recently in order to discuss his personal privacy with a lawyer. I am sorry, but this is not generally why people go to hotel rooms late at night. We need not know all of the details, by any means, but the appearance of fabricated details is unhelpful.

    Also, I became positively livid last night during the interview when he jumped to point out that your cancer was in remission when he began the affair and then, seeing that this made him look like an asshole, quickly suggested that this doesn’t excuse what he did. No, it really doesn’t, but I resent the fact that he felt the need to throw it out there just in case it might help him look like less of an asshole. That seemed disingenuous in the extreme.

    Second, I am angry because I think the media attention is out of control and very immoral. I don’t think this should be treated as a political issue. It’s a private matter between you and your family, and we didn’t need to know. Shame on the media for hounding your family and for bringing all of these memories back. Nevertheless, now that it’s out there, I think everyone should think long and hard about how they want to spin this.

    Third, I am angry because, even though I do not believe this is a legitimate political issue, it would be naive to think that it doesn’t matter to American politics. The truth is that this electorate is highly concerned with matters of personal conduct, whether or not I believe these are valid political concerns. Others have mentioned this, but let me reiterate: Both you and John campaigned for his presidency knowing that he had done this. That the media finally released the information shows that you were ultimately unable to control the information. What if John had won the nomination, and what if this came out then? You would absolutely be wrong to believe that this wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the general election. It may very well have been just enough to lose the Executive branch for the Democratic Party. This is what I have a hard time dealing with most of all–John’s political ambitions were treated as if they are more important than what is best for this country. I did–and DO–believe that he wanted to do good things, but he was a vulnerable candidate the moment he was unfaithful, and he should have recognized this early on and dropped out.

    I believe that this country is in political, social, and economic crisis, and I believe that four more years of a Republican ticket are a recipe for disaster. THAT’S is what is important. That a Democrat is able to win is what’s important, not that John is able to win. You both–but especially John–should have recognized this early on and ceased the campaigning. I was a long time believer, but even I know that there wasn’t really enough policy difference between Edwards, Clinton, and Obama to justify remaining in the race for as long as he did.

    I am very disappointed. You know, quite a few North Carolinians with whom I grew up were skeptical the entire time, always reminding me that “he started campaigning for the presidency as soon as he became elected to the Senate.” I’m still a supporter, but I would say now that I’m extremely disillusioned. And, for the reasons I outlined above, I do think John owes us an apology.

    Anyway, after all of this: Elizabeth, I hope that you and your children are well and strong and hopeful and hanging in there. I wish you the best of everything and hope that we will continue to hear your prophetic voice in particular in American public discourse. Be blessed.

  18. Kristin
    Kristin August 10, 2008 at 12:18 am |

    “3) A lot of people take the whole “this is none of our business” line. I agree that it’s hard to know the inner workings of any marriage. But unless they had some sort of open relationship, betraying your wife who has terminal cancer speaks volumes about somebody’s integrity and trustworthiness. Also, was he inappropriately using campaign funds to finance this affair, pay her hush money, give her the big estate she’s in? He certainly paid her 1/4 of a million to do advertisements for him.”

    dnourgrednu–YES to all of this. And I’ve been wondering all of these same things.

  19. Sam
    Sam August 10, 2008 at 12:42 am |

    @Renee: Off topic, but, I’m pretty sure men cheat more often than women. I’ve since sold my Marriage and Families textbook, so I can’t cite the study or any specific numbers, but I’m positive it was men who were more likely to have affairs than women; the margin was fairly significant (about 15% or so). Also, even more off topic, but somewhat interesting, apparently attractive men were more likely to cheat than unattractive men, but attractive women weren’t more likely to cheat than unattractive women. “Attractiveness” was judged by a panel, I think.

    On topic: I’m no expert on the chronology of the Edwards’ marriage or anything, but I’m still a bit confused as to why people are accusing him of having an affair while his wife had cancer. In Elizabeth’s response that Lauren linked she says the affair was in 2006 and she was diagnosed in March of 2007, so his affair would have come before her cancer. Or maybe I’m missing something.

    Beyond that, I never really cared much for Edwards. This, obviously, doesn’t help, but it doesn’t really make me like him any less, either. People have affairs all the time, it sucks, but.. it’s life, I guess. Like the rest of you, though, I’m disappointed in him for running for the Democratic nomination with this kind of thing just waiting to be picked up by the media.

  20. shah8
    shah8 August 10, 2008 at 12:45 am |

    You know what?

    Dissappointment was a perenial theme of lefty concern trolls who had a problem with “Obamabots”.

    I was an Edwards supporter, even though I did not really *like* him. I just wanted his platform enacted. Obama can be dissapointing for all of the gestures right that he made (I still defended Obama frequently back then, because much of the negative attention he got from bloggers and their coterie was of the same attitude that pretty much all accomplished black people get–*I* got hit with some of that, and I won almost if not all of my elections.), but what is that kind of dissapointment compared to Edwards running for president knowing he could be Gary Hart’ed at any moment? When he KNOWS that the press would be gunning for him?

    Oh yeah…you know what? Now I *really* piss on people who talk up the “flashy” and “inexperienced” Obama. He’s doing too damn good a job of playing Last Man Standing.

  21. Leslie
    Leslie August 10, 2008 at 1:42 am |

    I guess I’m an old-school feminist who thinks that as feminists we should be talking about the institution of marriage and how it privileges one set of outlooks over another rather than being scandalized that yet another politician has had extra-marital sex. To criticize behavior within the institution without casting a critical eye on the institution itself seems to signal an acceptance of the marriage culture (if you will). I’m pretty sure that most people reading this site have an actual background in critical analysis of cultural strictures. I’m curious as to why the tone here is more tsk-tsk than marriage as a patriarchal structure. Mr. Edwards was a bad boy, but what else is new? What’s the context for the feminist perspective that this is a big deal?

  22. Mark
    Mark August 10, 2008 at 4:53 am |

    Off wikipedia’s “infidelity” article…

    “Fifty United Kingdom divorce lawyers were asked to name the most common causes of their cases in 2003. Of those who cited extramarital affairs, 55% said it was usually the husbands and 45% said that it was the wives who cheated.”

    I think any evolutionary psychologist could tell you that infidelity isn’t a male problem, as dnourgrednu claimed or implied. There might be some discrepancy in manifested infidelity (possibly due to cultural influence) but saying it’s a man problem is laughable (even moreso coming from this website).

    Infidelity is a tricky thing… Before we condemn JE let’s consider two scenarios: A) A man who never “cheats” on his wife but has completely lost feelings for her, has given his heart entirely to another woman and lusts over her, but never does a thing and stays with his wife. B) A man who “cheats” on his wife once or twice but never loves the other woman and always remains in love with his wife.

    Which of these is worse? Most of society would condemn (B), only partly because (B) can be observed while (A) remains elusive. There’s something about the physical act that remains especially provocative, possibly largely due to our Judeochristian collective moral background. This background tells us just don’t do a physical act. If you’re unhappy or out of love just grin and bear it until you’re dead.

    The fact is that most people “cheat” either physically or mentally at some point. The physical thing is just a psychological hang-up. Explain to me why (A) is any less disloyal than (B), I dare you. I’d argue (A) is the greater of the two. People deserve compassion in these situations, not scorn. Any vegan will tell you eating a burger is DEEPLY more immoral than cheating. The outrage you feel should be examined at a deeper level.

    I agree with Renee (although the point that JE’s affair would implode the presidential race is crucial) about polygamy. The human animal is polygamous, and put into certain sociological bounds it will try and escape one way or another. Some people are truly monogamous, but a lot of us simply try and be monogamous because of all the benefits society and our lovers will acknowledge.

    Regarding JE, it seems many of you are hung up on the “marriage contract” thing of vowing to be monogamous, and the betrayal thing. These are valid criticisms but, on the other hand, the entire argument traces back to owning another human being. Here’s a small thought experiment: Man and women get married, and both agree that if the woman gets pregnant she won’t have an abortion no matter what. Later on she gets pregnant but at the last minute she decides she really wants to abort it. Did she “betray” the husband or break a vow? I believe most of you would argue that ultimately she didn’t because it was her body and her life, and that should take precedence over a previous arrangement. So why are you all hung up over JE’s vow and later reversal? It might be immoral in some vague sense but it certainly isn’t the man-hating outrageous event feminists are making it out to be.

  23. Charity
    Charity August 10, 2008 at 9:11 am |

    Her diagnosis in March ’07 was of a recurrence of cancer – she had been in remission. She was originally diagnosed in 2004, according to this.

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/03/22/cancer.edwards/index.html

    Not that that’s the biggest issue here…

  24. Peter
    Peter August 10, 2008 at 9:28 am |

    This is a real slap in the face to his supporters. I can’t believe the guy was asking me for money, knowing full well that he was unelectable as soon as this came out.

    And it really sucks that he did this to Elizabeth Edwards. She seems like she’s so awesome.

  25. B.D.
    B.D. August 10, 2008 at 9:56 am |

    I think that the “slap in the face of his supporters” stuff is what really ticks me off. Is it terrible what he did to his wife, especially given her condition? Sure, but that’s their business, not mine.

    What ticks me off is that his political message – the real reason to vote for the man – has been sidelined by this nonsense. He’s being cast as some sort of pariah by the party that celebrated Bill Clinton and let he and his wife deal with their issues on their own. (Though, the fact that Edwards appears a tad hypocritical after he made disparaging remarks about Clinton’s infidelities doesn’t help him). Edwards’ political messages, particularly about poverty and health care, remain strong. He should be allowed to speak at the convention. He should still be a viable candidate for a cabinet post. And his message still deserves the utmost respect.

  26. Joe
    Joe August 10, 2008 at 9:56 am |

    Put aside criticism of monogamy. Women do cheat too. The “spouse” is hurt here. Nice husbands are sometimes hurt by affairs. And, she said she was very upset, so it wasn’t like they had some sort of “agreement,” more likely than not. Not that I can be sure, obviously As to the cancer, it apparently was in remission. So, unlike say Newt, his wife wasn’t in the hospital bed, fwiw.

    Some of the coverage rails against him as an cad. Such coverage interestingly doesn’t seem to reference McCain — you know, on the cad side of things. Politically, it was reckless, he said as much, but it’s sad that it is so reckless. It is a clear case of how Puritan and hypocritical we can be. I would be more upset that he supported the Iraq War and that Clinton, unlike him, didn’t clearly admit being wrong about it.

    Some said he sounded like an ass when admitting to the affair. First, a big you know what to those who was upset that he lied and didn’t want his wife to be more upset because it was out in the news. Second, I’m unsure how you sound good admitting to an affair. FWIW, he probably came off better (especially since his wife wasn’t taken along) than some.

    Finally, adultery doesn’t suddenly make him a “hypocrite” as a general matter in public policy. If hypocrisy means that public figures can’t have private wrongs, that is dreamland territory.

  27. Joe
    Joe August 10, 2008 at 9:58 am |

    I also second B.D. … the idea he should not be offered a Cabinet position or whatever (the convention just might be too close) … that’s dumb. It’s like when the only Bush Cabinet person blocked was someone with a nanny problem.

    Yeah, this is what we are concerned about.

  28. Cara
    Cara August 10, 2008 at 10:06 am |

    Mark, you clearly don’t spend a lot of time on feminist sites, because any time you come out the door with “evolutionary psychologists,” you’re going to lose.

    Further, your argument both fascinates and amuses me. I’d argue that both A and B are immoral, for totally different reasons. A is not really anyone’s fault, but the correct response would be to either engage in couples counseling and/or get a divorce. I think few feminists would argue that people should stay in a loveless marriage. And knowing quite a few vegans, I find your insistence that they’d say eating meat is more immoral than cheating on a partner rather hilarious.

    Here’s the part you’re missing with your insulting abortion comparison. A person absolutely has a right to sleep with whomever they want so long as it’s consensual, as you express. But when you’ve made a mutual promise to your partner to not do that, while still technically have the right, many of us consider it immoral to act on it. Just like I have the right to use any number of racial slurs, but it would be immoral of me to do so. It’s not always moral to make a choice to act on a particular right. (Note that this does not directly pertain to my views on the abortion scenario you outline.) Being a person who does not believe in or is unable to cope with monogamy should be regarded in the same way as a person who doesn’t not believe that polygamy is right for them or knows that they would not be able to cope with it, and is in absolutely no way a personal failing. Promising monogamy to another person while knowing that is.

  29. Renee
    Renee August 10, 2008 at 10:38 am |

    @Cara

    But the fact is that a large majority of married Americans are not in open relationships, and I don’t think that we should be giving Edwards any passes on this when he did the whole opposing same-sex marriage for religious reasons thing, even if he was in an open marriage. The hypocrisy isn’t quite up there with Vitter, but it’s still hypocrisy.

    Just because the majority of Americans are engaged in a “traditional” monogamous marriage does not mean that this is a natural way to live life. It is further not grounds to stand in criticism of some elses sexual activities. It is an institution that is filled with flaws. It is not about giving him a free pass and his position on gay marriage has nothing to do with this issue. If we state that all people should have sexual freedom that applies to men like Edwards.

  30. john r
    john r August 10, 2008 at 11:00 am |

    have to say it there was something never quite right about edwards. you wanted to believe him, give him the benefit of the doubt. but when i watched nightline and listened to his ridiiculous attempt to “fess” up to the truth, i couldn’t believe a man of his success could be so stupid as to sit there and say he was owning the truth when it was obvious he wasnt.

    ” i can say anything i want. because you cant prove otherwise. i expect you to believe me.”

    the infidelity was merely the tip of the iceberg.

  31. Cara
    Cara August 10, 2008 at 11:24 am |

    Renee, I honestly don’t give a shit about what is and isn’t natural. I have no issue with polyamorous relationships, I have an issue with the breaking of a commitment, and perhaps even more so with the deception employed in breaking that commitment. I don’t give a shit who John Edwards fucks, but I am disappointed in his apparent decision to lie and break a promise to his wife. If they were in an open relationship, I would in fact be vehemently defending Edwards. Also, I think I’ve made it clear over time that I really respect you and your views a lot, and it’s within that context that I say you’re coming across as rather judgmental of those of us who are in monogamous relationships, whether that’s your intention or not.

  32. Feministe » John Edwards
    Feministe » John Edwards August 10, 2008 at 11:30 am |

    [...] in being a day behind on my Feministe reading before posting this. Lauren has a great take on this here, with a number of interesting observations, including re Elizabeth Edwards’ role in the [...]

  33. Feministe » John Edwards
    Feministe » John Edwards August 10, 2008 at 11:30 am |

    [...] in being a day behind on my Feministe reading before posting this. Lauren has a great take on this here, with a number of interesting observations, including re Elizabeth Edwards’ role in the [...]

  34. Peter
    Peter August 10, 2008 at 11:33 am |

    I think that the “slap in the face of his supporters” stuff is what really ticks me off. Is it terrible what he did to his wife, especially given her condition? Sure, but that’s their business, not mine.

    What ticks me off is that his political message – the real reason to vote for the man – has been sidelined by this nonsense.

    I agree, and I think that’s the larger issue here.

    Obviously, he was a jackass for lying to Elizabeth Edwards, and the timing of his affair in particular- while his wife was sick – was totally uncool.

    But, the thing that pisses me off is that he knew he would be unelectable if this came out, and yet he still asked people like me for support and money. Even though every thing he stood for, in the arena of public policy, would be put at risk.

    Further, this was extremely reckless behaviour on his part. Obviously, its his wife’s role to judge him, and I’m not a perfect person. But there’s something seriously flawed about a dude who would mislead his supporters, and put everything at risk. Imagine if he were the nominee of the Democratic party? His deception and behaviour would put the progressive movement at risk in this election. And, given that this is a historic opportunity for progressive to make some gains, how f*cked up is that?

  35. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne August 10, 2008 at 11:51 am |

    Edwards’ political messages, particularly about poverty and health care, remain strong. He should be allowed to speak at the convention. He should still be a viable candidate for a cabinet post. And his message still deserves the utmost respect.

    There is some indication that he used campaign funds to pay the woman off. If that’s the case, that’s a big, big problem and probably would (and should) put the kibosh on any cabinet position for him.

  36. Octogalore
    Octogalore August 10, 2008 at 11:53 am |

    Lauren, this is a great post. Interesting observation about EE not being part of the public confession — good move on her part.

    I see Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards as role models but not political role models. Neither have held major political positions and have mostly been advisors to more powerful men. Both are impressive activists and in that regard I see both as significant role models for women and for people in general. But I don’t want to have lower standards for my male and female role models.

    Here’s a comment I emailed to a few friends earlier today, we were discussing Edwards:

    I think even where it may mean not having sex for awhile, relationships require honesty. I don’t think it’s cool for one party to independently decide something is OK without discussing it. Of course when one person is sick, s/he isn’t feeling as sexual. However, Elizabeth’s cancer can’t be cured, but it can be treated, and she’s physically capable of having sex at the moment; we cannot compare this to a Miranda situation. I think any kind of consenting adults agreement (assuming nobody gets hurt, all that) is absolutely fine, third parties, whatever. Where a couple has an open marriage, someone from the outside saying “but sex is so important, lalala” has no place. Similarly, where a couple has a closed marriage and has determined that sex with third parties does mean something to their marriage, someone from the outside saying “how important is sex, anyway” has no place, IMO.

  37. Mary
    Mary August 10, 2008 at 1:12 pm |

    Did anyone else note in Mrs. Edward’s statement, the over-emphasis of “2006”? It gives me the impression of them trying way to hard to convince the public that it all transpired in 2006. It just smack of “I think he dost protest too much”. I probably have that quote wrong, but you get the idea.

  38. Pinko Punko
    Pinko Punko August 10, 2008 at 1:22 pm |

    I would love it if Elizabeth Edwards got a slot at the convention, and then just gave a barn burner about health care. She’s just awesome. That’s all I really have on this. The rest is a mess.

  39. B.D.
    B.D. August 10, 2008 at 1:50 pm |

    But, the thing that pisses me off is that he knew he would be unelectable if this came out, and yet he still asked people like me for support and money.

    Point taken, but you’re assuming that he knew that he’d be unelectable. I’m pretty sure he convinced himself that this wouldn’t be an issue. His wife sure didn’t seem to think this was an issue (not that we know of at this point). Edwards’ ego wouldn’t let him concede that fact. So, I don’t think he did it intentionally, which is what you’re implying. Yes, it would have put the progressive movement in an awkward position, but the movement is not distilled down to one person or one candidate. How many stalwarts of the fundamentalist conservatives have fallen and that movement carries on. You feel personally slighted and while I understand your position I’m just saying that it isn’t about you. It’s about Edwards and his wife and it’s their issue. Progressives need to pick up the pieces and continue to hammer their points.

    There is some indication that he used campaign funds to pay the woman off.

    Well, at this point that’s hearsay. It should be investigated, but a person close to the campaign has stated that he spent his own money – not campaign funds – in covering this up. Which brings up an interesting side note: how many people involved in the campaign knew about this and aren’t they also to be implicated in the feelings of betrayal that people like Peter are feeling?

    I would love it if Elizabeth Edwards got a slot at the convention, and then just gave a barn burner about health care.

    That would indeed be awesome.

  40. charles
    charles August 10, 2008 at 5:11 pm |

    “If they were in an open relationship, I would in fact be vehemently defending Edwards. ”

    but just like the Clinton’s they are politicians, so there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY either John or Elizabeth or Bill or Hillary could come out publicly and say “we have an open marriage.” so none of us will ever know if they were in an open marriage, and thus the idea we’d defend them if they were, while very fair and supportive, is meaningless.

    on this point, i completely agree with Renee’s idea that our patriarchal society’s definition of marriage and the importance – no, the necessity – of monogamy is the real problem.

  41. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 10, 2008 at 5:46 pm |

    I’m having a hard time with the “it’s just sex” line of thinking.

    I’m thinking that it’s not “just sex”. I don’t think that’s what upsets people who find out their spouse has been seeing someone else on the side. I think it’s the level of intimacy shared with another person, the amount of time spent, and (though this isn’t operable for the Edwards family, as they are wealthy), let’s face it—the money spent on an affair. I don’t think it’s the mere sex that tweaks those heartstrings—it’s the fact that the sex tends to come with long conversations, laughter, late nights, shared moments. It’s the bonding that occurs, not the sex, that rankles the person who’s been cheated on.

    See, the spouse has been a person who has made some sacrifices in his/her life in order to build a life together. The person committing adultery in effect is saying, through his/her actions: “Sacrifices, schmacrifices. That’s all well and good, but so what?. Nice of you and all, but ultimately meaningless. If opportunity knocks, I’m answering the door. You are as meaningful and as disposable as a near-stranger.”

    When I first heard about the story, my assumptions weren’t about any private agreement regarding marriage they may have had between one another or not—my assumptions were all about Elizabeth Edward”s cancer. My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer (metastatic breast cancer), and while she’s made the best of it for a couple of years, it looks like she’s headed for some bad times in her immediate future. Fighting cancer isn’t easy. Having a serious medical issue like that makes a person vulnerable, emotionally and physically. I can’t help but think John Edwards was taking the easy way out—-looking out for the proverbial “number one” rather than living up to his responsibilities as a husband. And that speaks volumes about his character.

    I’m also having a hard time with the “this is a private matter” argument. It reminds me too much of how domestic violence was (and still is, by many people) viewed as a “private family matter.” The fact is that married women are still expected to tolerate spousal infidelity. No, men aren’t the only ones who cheat on their spouses, but realistically, men are more likely to get a pass due to sexist myths about how women don’t need sex but men do, men have greater sexual appetites, men are more visual, men can’t help themselves, and other nonsense. One’s conduct towards one’s family can and does demonstrate their level of integrity, honesty and loyalty to those outside their family also. If you only manage to cough up the truth to your family when can’t hide the lies anymore—hell, how honest are you going to be to those outside your family?

    As others have said, I could care less who’s fucking whom. And yes, marriage comes with a great big heaping helping of heterosexual and male privilege. But that doesn’t mean we need to pretend that (heterosexual) affairs don’t come with a great big heap of male privilege and bullshit patriarchal myths as well.

  42. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 10, 2008 at 5:51 pm |

    but just like the Clinton’s they are politicians, so there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY either John or Elizabeth or Bill or Hillary could come out publicly and say “we have an open marriage.”

    Wait a minute. Why not? Why shouldn’t heterosexual couples with an open marriage—-couples who already enjoy a helluva lot of legal and societal privileges based on their het and married status—-be expected to risk some of that privilege by being real about who they are?

  43. MamaB
    MamaB August 10, 2008 at 9:05 pm |

    The scummy slime does not deserve the press he is getting that allows him to”come clean”–at least in his eyes he is coming clean.

    There are more important issues and people in the world who should be the focus by the press, liberal or otherwise.

  44. Mark
    Mark August 10, 2008 at 10:21 pm |


    “Mark, you clearly don’t spend a lot of time on feminist

    sites, because any time you come out the door with

    “evolutionary psychologists,” you’re going to lose.”

    If that’s really true, it only points to ignorance on feminist

    sites… Evolutionary psychology is a well-respected,

    legitimate field of science (the debate ended in the 70’s

    btw). I’d be amused if you think human psychology isn’t

    affected by our genes.


    “Further, your argument both fascinates and amuses me. I’d

    argue that both A and B are immoral, for totally different

    reasons. A is not really anyone’s fault, but the correct

    response would be to either engage in couples counseling

    and/or get a divorce. I think few feminists would argue that

    people should stay in a loveless marriage. And knowing quite a

    few vegans, I find your insistence that they’d say eating meat

    is more immoral than cheating on a partner rather hilarious.”

    A main point of mentioning the scenario was to illustrate how

    cheating isn’t just a physical act. An earlier poster

    described it as mainly a male problem. Well, not only is that

    wrong or at least deceptive, but it also occurs much more

    frequently than you’d assume it does if you’re only

    considering physical cheating. I believe polygamy is fairly

    natural to humans. Of course, it has negative consequences and

    people who aspire to own another human’s body will be

    disappointed, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

    I know vegans as well, and of course they’ll tell you

    unnessecerily killing a sentient being is deeply more immoral

    than breaking a sociological promise to only have sex with one

    person. If you honestly think that’s untrue, I dare you to

    poll a vegan message board and find out for yourself.


    “Here’s the part you’re missing with your insulting abortion

    comparison. A person absolutely has a right to sleep with

    whomever they want so long as it’s consensual, as you express.

    But when you’ve made a mutual promise to your partner to not

    do that, while still technically have the right, many of us

    consider it immoral to act on it. Just like I have the right

    to use any number of racial slurs, but it would be immoral of

    me to do so. It’s not always moral to make a choice to act on

    a particular right. (Note that this does not directly pertain

    to my views on the abortion scenario you outline.) Being a

    person who does not believe in or is unable to cope with

    monogamy should be regarded in the same way as a person who

    doesn’t not believe that polygamy is right for them or knows

    that they would not be able to cope with it, and is in

    absolutely no way a personal failing. Promising monogamy to

    another person while knowing that is.”

    I don’t think you understood. You’re saying the abortion

    vow/monogamy vow is unsound because fundamentally, though

    they’re both rights, abortion is moral while cheating isn’t.

    I was saying that at the outset of a marriage, couple A agrees

    that cheating is immoral and that it won’t happen. Couple B

    agrees that abortion is immoral and won’t happen. In both

    cases the vow is broken. Why should the wife from couple B be

    able to claim her personal autonomy took precendence over a

    promise, while the husband from couple A shouldn’t? They both

    AGREED it was immoral at the beginning.

    You can’t now appeal to some invisible global bible-style

    morality and say couple A had absolutely no reason to break

    the vow while couple B did, because one act was objectively

    immoral and one isn’t. You’d argue breaking an abortion

    promise is okay if the woman later on regrets it and decides

    it’s her body ultimately, but I’m arguing the same thing for

    breaking a monogramy promise.

    Btw- if a wife decides to abort a fetus against the husband’s

    wishes, don’t even try and say that can’t potentially cause as

    much psychological pain for the husband as if a wife gets

    cheated on by her husband.


    La Lubu: “Wait a minute. Why not? Why shouldn’t heterosexual couples with an open marriage—-couples who already enjoy a helluva lot of legal and societal privileges based on their het and married status—-be expected to risk some of that privilege by being real about who they are?”

    It’s kind of like if you’re working for your female boss and you see her husband around the office sometime. You think he’s really hot and fantasize about having him. Are you “expected” to the admit that to your boss and risk losing your job? Some would claim that unless a given fact has a real bearing on one’s ability to do a job (or govern a country), it shouldn’t be “expected” to be publicly aired. People do like their privacy after all.

  45. Octogalore
    Octogalore August 11, 2008 at 12:22 am |

    La Lubu: “And yes, marriage comes with a great big heaping helping of heterosexual and male privilege. But that doesn’t mean we need to pretend that (heterosexual) affairs don’t come with a great big heap of male privilege and bullshit patriarchal myths as well.”

    Exactly. Hetero affairs on the part of a powerful man usually are associated with some level of entitlement complex.

  46. Mark
    Mark August 11, 2008 at 4:05 am |


    Octogalore: “Exactly. Hetero affairs on the part of a powerful man usually are associated with some level of entitlement complex.”

    What’s your opinion on what hetero affairs perpetuated by the woman are usually associated with?

  47. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 11, 2008 at 8:04 am |

    People do like their privacy after all.

    Sure they do. But in this case, it’s serving the same function as any other closet—that is, keeping a human truth, human lives, under wraps. Forcing them to live a lie, to keep up “appearances”, even when those appearances do damage to themselves and others. We need to ask ourselves who are these “appearances” for? Who do these appearances serve?

    Think about it. Beyond a certain office, it’s hard to get elected if you don’t fit at least most of the patriarchal image—married, middle-class (or higher), 2.5 kids, white picket fence, yadda yadda. (ever see a race where some married man with the pristine image runs against a single mother? I have, and her lack of the proper image is always part of the campaign) Despite the fact that most of the population doesn’t fit this image. Imagine a world in which more people openly reject this image that doesn’t fit, and say “take me as I am.” But it’s hard. It’s not the “privacy” that people want, as much as the privileges that come from silence. That’s why some people brought up John Edwards’ rejection of same-sex marriage; he’s exercising his privilege to break societal sexual taboos (in private, of course), while remaining willing to use the power of Law to keep other taboos in place—the power of the Law to keep others from setting new boundaries, new societal standards.

    I’m not sold on the idea that anything is particularly “natural” when it comes to human sexuality. I think sexuality is a pretty broad spectrum, and that includes a person’s propensity for the monogamy and/or polygamy.

    What’s your opinion on what hetero affairs perpetuated by the woman are usually associated with?

    Can’t speak for Octo, but I’d say that if it’s a hetero affair and a woman is one party, the other party is probably a man, no? I think for both men and women, most infidelity isn’t about sex—it’s about finding a replacement relationship for the current unsatisfying one. If a couple has a open marriage or open agreement, then there isn’t any infidelity, regardless of how much sex either party is having outside their relationship.

  48. Lisa
    Lisa August 11, 2008 at 10:26 am |

    La Lubu says: “And yes, marriage comes with a great big heaping helping of heterosexual and male privilege. But that doesn’t mean we need to pretend that (heterosexual) affairs don’t come with a great big heap of male privilege and bullshit patriarchal myths as well.”

    Octo says, “Exactly. Hetero affairs on the part of a powerful man usually are associated with some level of entitlement complex.”

    I say: EXACTLY! This is what I find so irritating about these high profile infidelity cases. Not to mention the fact that the men in these high profile scandals usually has a public position, which sings the praises of family values, respect for women…blah, blah, blah.

    I also have to agree with Octo about how this is rooted in the inequality between men and women in the work force. Elizabeth Edwards, Hilary Clinton, and on and on and on and on (highly educated women) put their careers on hold for their men because it was “necessary” so that they could support their husbands, raise their kids, whatever…and blamo…they are thanked by having their husbands cheat on them.

    But their husbands couldn’t help it because, you know, it’s lonely at the top and they have so much pressure on them and they just needed to blow off a little steam and their wives don’t make them feel “special” anymore and, plus, their wives aren’t really that interesting anymore, what with them spending all their time supporting their men and raising their children. BLAH!

  49. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl August 11, 2008 at 10:34 am |

    @Renee:

    “If we state that all people should have sexual freedom that applies to men like Edwards.”

    First, this isn’t about sexual freedom. Secondly, feminism isn’t about sexual freedom.

    That said, what pisses me off is Edwards continued pimping of his wife, which is made abundantly clear by the light of his extramarital affair. Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer has a causal link to the fertility treatments she took in order to conceive a son for John. See, John lost his first son to an accident; but despite his having an almost adult daughter at the time, John *really* needed another male unit in the family. And further, despite Elizabeth’s age and her having birthed two children for him, she went on fertility drugs to conceive. But oops! The first conception post-fertility drugs was another daughter. Not.good.enough. More drugs. Another pregnancy. And lo! there was a son born to John Edwards. And then there was cancer. Scratch that. Is cancer.

    Too bad John doesn’t have a fraction of the loyalty Elizabeth has.

    So, it’s not really about sex Renee. It’s about an almost utilitarian use of women that John seems to relish (and breed!).

    Personally? I care a great deal. We don’t need men like this anymore. Let them go back to their hundred acre, 28,000+ sq ft homes, and ponder their navels.

  50. octogalore
    octogalore August 11, 2008 at 10:37 am |

    Mark: “What’s your opinion on what hetero affairs perpetuated by the woman are usually associated with?”

    Lisa and LaLubu had some good comments on this. Here’s mine:

    1) It’s somewhat irrelevant because statistically far fewer hetero affairs are initiated by the married woman.

    2) That’s partially because she is typically working two shifts.

    3) Also, statistically far fewer women feel “entitled” to trade in (sexually) for a younger model.

    4) That’s mostly because women have historically been slotted into a decorative/accessory/toy role and men have been judged and judged themselves by the quality of their toys.

    5) So to answer your question, hetero affairs perpetuated by women are typically, as La Lubu put it, “a replacement relationship for the current unsatisfying one.” And I agree with her that this is true for men in some cases too. But I think the powerful man/younger woman motif is also likely to have entitlement complex as a factor.

  51. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate August 11, 2008 at 11:03 am |

    “But, the thing that pisses me off is that he knew he would be unelectable if this came out, and yet he still asked people like me for support and money.”

    So did Elizabeth Edwards. Why no criticism of her?

  52. amandaw
    amandaw August 11, 2008 at 12:00 pm |

    The more I think about this the more I think we should take this opportunity to lift Elizabeth up. She is an amazing woman, an amazing activist and an amazing public figure, with ALL of her husband’s strengths and few to none of his weaknesses.

    I want to see us use this time to invest energy into promoting Elizabeth as a national figure akin to Al Gore — doing something CONSTRUCTIVE rather than using it as an opportunity to be destructive, to John in particular.

    ’cause you know what? Fuck John. I admire Elizabeth for staying with him, and I still admire him in other ways, but fuck him, let’s not devote our attention to HIM. Let us instead look to Elizabeth. She is a strong, passionate, intellectually honest woman and she can do so much good if we give her the chance to.

    But if we just keep flogging John, well, we’re basically throwing her in with him by sheer ignorance. We can’t neglect her.

    I don’t know whether I mean “we” as feminists, “we” as Americans, “we” as society? I think feminists would do well to create a strong movement under Elizabeth, diligently building a platform for her to make use of. I think we in a broader sense just need to quit focusing on John, because that does no one any good besides the pompous media figures who can feel self righteous. It doesn’t help Elizabeth, it doesn’t help the Democratic Party, it doesn’t help us “regular Americans” — it doesn’t even particularly help Republicans. It’s a fucking dead end. Let’s take the narrow road.

  53. charles
    charles August 11, 2008 at 2:24 pm |

    Charles wrote:
    but just like the Clintons they are politicians, so there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY either John or Elizabeth or Bill or Hillary could come out publicly and say “we have an open marriage.”

    La Lubu wrote:
    Wait a minute. Why not? Why shouldn’t heterosexual couples with an open marriage—-couples who already enjoy a helluva lot of legal and societal privileges based on their het and married status—-be expected to risk some of that privilege by being real about who they are?

    Well of course they should be able to do that, and it would be the much more honest and courageous thing to do. i would greatly admire anyone who was honest about being in an open relationship, but in our current political context ANY national politician who says they are involved in a non-monogamous marriage would be ending their national political career.

    i DO NOT think that is a good thing, i think it’s very bad and dishonest and leads us to unfair and unrealistic expectations of our “leaders.” basically we are saying that monogamy is the only acceptable lifestyle for a politician, which i think absolutely disqualifies a large number of perfectly qualified candidates. it is a ridiculous hypocritical reality, but that’s American politics, ridiculous and hypocritical.

  54. mermaidshoes
    mermaidshoes August 11, 2008 at 2:59 pm |

    i think it boils down to the fact that marriage (regardless of how you feel about its influence on society) is a promise of fidelity. if he couldn’t keep such a major promise, how is anyone to trust his word on any other topic? even if he and his wife have an “open” marriage, i think his cheating speaks to a willingness to publicly embrace certain societal constructions, then turn around and behave in a way that’s exactly opposed to those constructs. that would be fine IF he were honest in criticizing those social constructs–but offering public support and behaving differently in private is about the sleaziest (yet probably most common…) thing a politician, or anyone, can do.

    also, i’m blanking on instances of high-profile women cheating on their husbands (there must be some?!), BUT how much do you want to bet that “slut,” “tramp,” and “whore” would be the top words used in any discussion of those women? edwards, however, is just a narcissist, and there’s nothing wrong with that–in fact, it’s basically the american dream.

  55. anonymous
    anonymous August 11, 2008 at 9:27 pm |

    It is clear to me that the people posting about how monogamy is unnatural and how people can be happily poly amorous have never been on the receiving end of the news that their spouse has had an affair or seen the absolute devastation it can wreak on a family. If an open marriage works for you, kudos to you, I think that’s awesome. It doesn’t work for everyone though and I find it rather insensitive to gloss over how absolutely heartbreaking it is to find out that your spouse has cheated on you, with no thought for your feelings or health. It is a much, much different ball of wax then a mutually agreed upon open marriage and it should never, ever be compared to one. Whether you think it’s a natural relationship or not doesn’t impact the result on the betrayed spouse.

    That out of the way, I think that the affair is a private manner between John and Elizabeth Edwards and what I think about his conduct is not relevant. I do think it’s ridiculous that he lied about it for many months only to turn around and admit to it- he should have either said it was between he and Elizabeth and refused to answer questions or admitted it and moved on. I think he made it ten times worse by lying about it. I do think this will have an effect on his political career, despite the fact that I don’t think it should. I don’t think a personal mistake should impact your professional career. I am really disappointed in his lack of judgment though- I can’t believe he just handed the GOP this kind of ammunition, and I was an early and vocal Edwards supporter. I can’t imagine what this would have done if he had the nomination instead of Obama.

  56. octogalore
    octogalore August 12, 2008 at 2:35 pm |

    Anon — I think you have a great point there and I’m inspired to post on it.

  57. Feministe » John Edwards, Again: The Monogamy Issue

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