Thursday, May 17, 2012

Closing the Book on John Edwards

His rise and fall tell more about politics and politicians in the 21st century—-and the rest of us--than they do about one imperfect man. John Edwards’ saga suggests where America is heading in an age of knowing everything and understanding practically nothing about people brought into our lives by 24/7 media.

Covering Edwards’ trial now is like “leafing through a catalogue of the sad and the sordid,” says a New Yorker writer, concluding that it “raises questions about campaign finance, the business of image-making, the pivotal role of a single large donor, and how much we really care about a candidate’s character.”

Yet, how much can we know when that “character” is largely a charade he constructs to hide even from himself?

In 2007, I wrote in defense of media probing the lives of candidates: “John Edwards and Mitt Romney are grown men who made a lot of money and now want the most powerful job in the world. All this attention goes with the process of trying to get it.”

Romney has no sexual skeletons but his parade of false selves is as daunting as those of Edwards, for whom millions voted as Vice President in 2004 and supported for the Democratic nomination four years later, only to learn that they knew nothing of his true self at all. (Venture capitalists and negligence lawyers don’t share their inner lives or even examine them much.)

Now, there would not be much point in throwing the book at John Edwards before we close it, but let voters who swooned over the likes of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain before settling for Mitt Romney ask themselves how much they really know about their choice.

Time is running out.

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