I spent last weekend reading Andrew Young’s book about John Edwards, The Politician. It was riveting, not only because of the scandal, but perhaps least because of the scandal. I am actually scandal weary right now – think Tiger Woods.
The Politician is a morality tale. Mr. Young is himself a child of divorce. In his teens, his beloved and morally revered father committed very public adultery. You can trace in the book how that loss made him vulnerable to John Edwards’ narcissism.
Elizabeth Edwards does not come off well either. Her popularity plummeted as a result of the story of her vengefulness and sense of entitlement. Elizabeth undoubtedly deserves a popularity hit for the entitlement issues, but I totally get the vengefulness. She had been lied to by her husband who told her (unbeknownst to Mr. Young, at least in the beginning ) that the woman in question was Mr. Young’s mistress. Thus, what she saw as the unraveling of the campaign and the besmirchment of John Edwards reputation, was due to Mr. Young.
As a divorce lawyer who does a lot of litigation, (I talk a lot about settlement in this blog because I believe that usually settlement is the best idea, but hard fought litigation and trials are what I primarily do) I see a lot of cases where adultery is a real issue. It is very hard for a non-lawyer to understand that the law cares little or nothing as to whether their spouse cheated on them. The real and irresolvable issue in a divorce where adultery is known, is often that one spouse has been lied to and so everything must be tested because trust is impossible. In order to reach settlement in cases there is a real necessity for a certain level of trust. It may only be that the numbers have been tested through discovery, but some comfort level has to exist before both parties can agree to sign a contract. Of course there are also irresolvable issues – custody, removal of children from the commonwealth and issues of valuation that cannot be compromised, which also result in trials.
Because of what I do I like to think of myself as un-shockable, but this book did shock me. Not by the truly tacky behavior, but by how close Edwards came to the presidency. I have often thought that running for the presidency requires a certain degree of insanity, but Edwards’ narcissism is astounding.