DAVE TOMAR: You have to admire guys like Eliot Spitzer and John Edwards. For a pair of filthy scumbags, they both pulled off the earnest and well-meaning public servant act with remarkable success.
First as New York’s Attorney General, then as its Governor, Spitzer was a shiny-pated crusader against corporate indecency at a time when such was sorely needed. Something of an anti-Giuliani, if you will. And then it was revealed that he was shtupping a call-girl under the hilarious alias, Client #9. After stepping down from his office in disgrace, Spitzer entered a new phase of his career; the unelectable phase. He has begun reinserting himself into the public discourse by composing economic policy editorials complete with a boilerplate apology for past indiscretions.
John Edwards, the former North Carolina Senator and 2008 Presidential primary contender, also suffered a disgrace on account of his reported misdeeds with a campaign videographer. On the relative scale, and considering that he was only running for the presidency and did not hold public office at the time, Edwards’ lapses in judgment might be more forgivable. Of course, the kicker is that his wife was being treated for breast cancer at the time. When your strongest self-defense is that the terminal illness appeared to be in remission, generating sympathy with the public is no small task.
And yet, in the face of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s now burgeoning scandal, a remarkably bizarre and twisted case of infidelity to the public and to his family, it is intriguing to consider that there is no exact science to predicting one’s ability to survive to see a political future. If Bill Clinton is the elder statesman of the modern democratic party, surely there is a place for at least one of these guys. Spitzer or Edwards, that is, not Sanford. Conservatives who make their bones defining the sanctity of marriage in America while swinging on the South Side of the Equator deserve to spend their future days in public service performing gay marriage ceremonies.
But between Spitzer and Edwards, my money is on the guy with hair. Edwards has resurfaced recently to assure the public that he intends in whatever capacity possible to continue his advocacy of poverty rights. And I for one, take the deeply misogynistic standpoint that Edwards was significantly underperforming in the attractive-wife department well before she had terminal cancer. I admit, this is not the most sensitive perspective. In fact, it’s probably the most disgusting one you could conjure on the subject.
Frankly though, where extra-marital indiscretion in public service is concerned, we are, to paraphrase the brilliant film Spinal Tap, floating in a sea of retarded sexuality. Therefore, I think it is wise to parse details and distort reality to the extent that such actions are defensible to some electorate. Where comeback specials are concerned, I’d be more likely to attach my name to an Edwards project, particularly considering that he is a southern politician. There’s a constituency out there that always wondered why the slick-looking John Edwards was with a woman twice his size, southern familial archetypes aside. With his looks, he could have been with a much more shallow woman.
A lot of people may see the sense in his indiscretions. Not good people, but voters nonetheless. Spitzer, on the other hand, paid money for sex in New York. If you’re married and you still can’t get laid for free in New York, you have charisma problems. The problem of infidelity is too rampant for us to condemn in perpetuity every public official proven guilty. We’re developing a huge turnover problem in Congress. We must apply some nuance in the nature and length of our condemnation.
To the point, we might consider the hypocrisy of condemning the public record of one such as Edwards, who never won an election on the promise of sexual fidelity. By contrast, it bears noting that Eliot Spitzer habitually paid a prostitute for sex, which is illegal. Since New Yorkers pay his salary, I can see being pretty indignant about the disbursement of funds. There’s probably a bad pork-barrel spending joke in there. Fill in your own.
The point is not that John Edwards is a defensible human being, but as a public servant, he’s my kind of scum.