The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Leave Elizabeth Alone

I suppose it had to come to this eventually. John Edwards is the one who had the affair, but now people are angry with Elizabeth.

It seems an odd way to treat a woman with incurable cancer wronged by a cheating husband, the latest in a series of deep hardships in life that includes the death of a teenage son.

But some former followers have questioned the recklessness of keeping the affair under wraps even though her husband — a former U.S. senator, two-time presidential candidate and the 2004 vice presidential nominee — said he confessed the affair in 2006, before the campaign began in earnest the next year.

“I think she’s complicit,” said Brad Crone, a Raleigh-based Democratic consultant. “Obviously, she knew. While she’s the victim, she clearly didn’t stand in the way of the cover-up.”

She didn’t stand in the way of the cover-up? Exactly what would people have her do? Denounce her husband on national television, and then have the cameras follow her to the courthouse to file divorce papers?

In a post on the liberal blog Daily Kos, where Edwards has her own diary, she pleaded for privacy and later seemed to explain why she stuck by her spouse and his presidential ambitions.

“An imperfect man with a truly progressive vision who spoke to and for those whom others ignored? Yes, that is who I supported,” she wrote. “An imperfect man who had come to face his own imperfections and was seeking to redeem himself to those closest to him? Yes, that is who I supported.”

Some responded to the affair with words of kindness, while others angrily suggested that keeping the secret was no less a sin than the one committed by her philandering husband.

“She knew [he was running for] president with this bomb waiting to go off. She did. She kinda loses my sympathy,” wrote one poster.

“I believe we are all owed a huge apology, not self-serving claims for pity by both John and Elizabeth Edwards, who both knew about the affair and both decided to go forward and seek the Democratic candidacy, regardless of the Titanic risk,” wrote another.

I guess that’s one of the reasons I quit posting at DailyKos. The level of nastiness there seemed to be increasing on a daily basis, and so I stopped posting around the time of the Kathy Sierra controversy. I don’t know if some of the commenters there had simply taken their lead from the site owner, but I no longer wanted that association. I knew when I saw Elizabeth Edwards’ post that it wouldn’t be be long before those comments popped up. Nice way to treat someone living with incurable cancer and a cheating husband on top of it.

I actually have a bit more sympathy for the spouses of public figures when an infidelity comes to light, and they have to deal with news that would probably throw anyone for a loop, but they have to deal with it under bright light, with cameras and microphones shoved in their faces. If the infidelity is a first, or at least the first known to them, then they’re also dealing with a new view of the spouse they’ve known and trusted for decades.

What do people want? Angry declarations and public fights with cameras rolling? Elizabeth Edwards has over 31 years or more of history with her husband, and all the shared experiences that go along with that; the memories that bond a couple to one another, like the loss of a child, as the Edwards experienced. Speaking of children, the Edwards have three surviving children, two of whom are under 10 years old. Might Elizabeth Edwards have been thinking of her children when she (apparently) decided to stay married to her husband, and allowed herself to hope that the family would be able to deal privately with what has to be a personal tragedy to them all.

What could she have done to force her husband to come forward? What possible good could public revelations and recriminations on her part have done for her family or her children? (In any case, I can almost guarantee that Elizabeth’s first thought — as would be the case with any parent worthy of the title — was of her children, how to protect them, and what would be best for them. Whatever anyone else thought they were owed would take back seat, at least as far as I’m concerned.) It might make for good tabloid T.V., but it does nothing to even begin to heal a family. In fact, it does precisely the opposite.

So, leave Elizabeth Edwards alone. She’s not the one who had the affair and put her spouse in the impossible position of dealing with and infidelity, and deciding between attempting to do so privately in hopes of protecting her family, or doing it publicly to satisfy some self-righteous politicos think they are owed.

I’ll make a deal, when you’re a public figure and your politician/spouse of 30+ years, with whom you’ve had four children and lost one, has an affair, and you have to decide whether to try and deal with it privately or live and in front of the entire world — knowing all the while that some people still won’t be satisfied — then you can judge Elizabeth Edwards. Until then, just leave her alone. She’s got more than enough to deal with.

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