Kel Kelly

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Edwards Wins Gold For Mea Culpa

August 9, 2008 9:53 AM

When the story of John Edwards’ affair broke yesterday I felt sick to my stomach. First and foremost, I felt sick for his wife Elizabeth. And, before I dissect the all-to-familiar admission of an affair by a politician, I want to take a moment to just say how much I admire Elizabeth Edwards.

As a Mom, knowing she had to go through the unimaginable pain of losing a child is quite simply unbearable. It is every parent’s nightmare and she has shown the world that you can survive the loss and emerge strong. The courage she has shown through her battle with cancer, including the recent news that it will eventually take her life, is nothing short of incredible. And the glowing love and commitment she showers on her family remains unwavering in spite of all she has had to endure. She truly is an exceptional human being and the thought that she is now dealing with more pain seems brutally unfair.

Unfortunately, watching political figures fall from grace has become part of our American culture. The iconic image of the male politician facing an army of media with his broken wife by his side is all too familiar. The mea culpa’s have ranged from “I apologize…but I did nothing wrong,” as illustrated by Idaho Senator Larry Craig, to “I am deeply sorry I didn’t live up to what was expected of me,” as stated by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, to the cowardly telephone admission of “…the fact is the honest answer is yes” by Newt Gingrich when asked about an affair. Gingrich had to be the most jaw-dropping situation since he was having the affair while leading the investigation into President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.

The one common denominator to every political affair-related mea culpa is that none of these men had the decency, courage and/or awareness to take the next step and explain why it happened. John Edwards took that step last night and raised the bar on accountability like the Olympic gymnast who lands three perfect 10s on the balance beam. He started the interview with Bob Woodrow by saying “I made a mistake…I alone am responsible for it…” But later in the interview he took his mea culpa to an Olympic gold medal performance by honestly stating why the affair happened. “I went from being a senator, a young senator, to being considered for vice president, running for president, being a vice presidential candidate and becoming a national public figure. All of which fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want. You’re invincible. And there will be no consequences.” There you have it. To the best of my knowledge, the essence of the last three lines of that statement have never been uttered by any fallen politician.

I think Edwards also deserves extra points for sitting down and fielding questions openly and without limitation. The majority of other mea culpa’s including Craig and Spitzer’s have been delivered by reading a carefully crafted statement probably written by somebody else versus live, free flowing conversation. Moreover, John Edwards did the right thing by not forcing his wife to stand by his side as a means to somehow validate that everything is okay. Everything is not okay.

By no means am I condoning what Edwards did, but I do give him an exceptional amount of credit for identifying the real reasons for the affair and exposing his flaws to a global audience.

And if my PR instincts are right, I don’t think we’ve heard everything and the story is probably not over.

What do you think?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

9 Comments on “Edwards Wins Gold For Mea Culpa”

  1. grace Says:

    You do still have quite a way with words…and, I agree, to a point. But, I am all too fed up with politicians thinking they are invincible…can’t we get someone in office with ethics, who refuses to get caught up in the system.
    Oh well, on to November…I hope this somehow energizes the Democratic party to stay “on message” and to find a VP candidate who is squeeky clean!

  2. Kel Says:

    grace, i hear you loud and clear and i think your sentiments are echoed by many. while i don’t consider myself jaded, i wonder if “squeeky clean” exists with anyone. for whatever reason, many people get drunk off the power and do dumb things. for the sake of the democratic party and the future of this country, i hope your hope come true.

  3. Jonathan Trenn Says:

    What do I think? I think you are wrong.

    Yes, Edwards performed well and much of it was sincere. But when he started with “I’m a small town boy” stuff I began to roll my eyes. It’s not as if he came out of nowhere. His small town upbringing surely has had an impact on his life, but he had plenty of experiences since then.

    And he didn’t allow open questions. Time frame of affair? He shut that down quick. He kept on saying that it occurred solely in 2006. God I hope so. But I’ve read since then that Rielle Hunter was there in New Orleans when he declared in December of 2006. Elizabeth wasn’t. Let’s hope he ended it right after that.

    He also chose to continue to run for president – suddenly she’s pregnant (I’ll give him the assumption that he’s not the father) – putting his political party at risk and the hopes of many others as well.

    His narcissism continued.

    And now we have his finance chair forking over $15,000 a month…where did that money come from? PLus, she’s set up in a $3,000,000 home in Santa Barbara. What a sweet deal!! And he ain’t even the father!

    I live in DC and know someone who may have to investigate this…because if it is from campaign funds, it’s breaking a federal law.

    Edwards performed well, but he’ll still have some legitimate questions to answer.

    And, while I’m not a Republican, you’re wrong about Gingrich. He criticized Clinton, but he stood back a bit. He didn’t lead any investigation. Spitzer with a call girl is a bit more draw dropping.

    P.S. I just defended you over at TechCrunch.

    http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/08/13/the-pr-roadblock-on-the-road-to-blissful-blogging/#comment-2437515

  4. Kel Says:

    jonathan, i gotta admit…i think you bring up a lot of great points. my premise was more around how he handled the crisis pr situation relative to others. i think he will soon have his medal taken away in my eyes as more stuff surfaces. it’s clear there is more to the story. he had a chance to air it all and it looks like he didn’t. this will come back to haunt him. thanks for the techcrunch post. mike pulled a classic traditional media move by posting something inaccurate and out-of-context. wasn’t worth my time to respond. i appreciate you hittin’ up my blog. hope to hear more of your perpsective on future posts.

  5. Jonathan Trenn Says:

    If Edwards and/or his team didn’t break any laws, then he should be fine. I just can’t believe $15,000 per month – $180,000 per year – is money for her troubles. Especially when Edwards is not the daddy. It’s hush money – and there’s lots of it, so there will likely be some sort of investigation. After all, Mr. & Mr. Iowa Democrat didn’t donate money to the campaign to buy off Hunter.

    If he had any brains, he would have dropped out for family reasons.

    Now the matter of their marriage is truly their own business – as long as they pretty much stay behind the scenes. Don’t try to do a public rehab bit in order to get back on people’s radar.

  6. Kel Says:

    jonathan, i agree. if you go back & watch the abc clip he squints and then delivers a very carefully crafted line relative to the money. hugely evasive. i think this is going to explode in his face like a firecracker. what amazes me is that these politicians don’t learn from those who have fallen before them. you’re going to get caught and if you do it’s best to take full responsibility and make sure everything is brought to the surface.

  7. Pam Sosnowski Says:

    I think the word “mistake” is overused as the “get out of jail free” card when public figures do something wrong. Was it a “mistake” that a certain body part of Edwards found its way to a certain body part of Rielle Hunter? No, there was deliberate thinking and action on their part. BTW, I find it interesting that no one is criticizing Hunter for sleeping with a married man. It takes two to tango as the old saying goes.

    What got me about his interview is that he said the affair happened while his wife’s cancer was in remission…then he suddenly seemed to realize how stupid it was to say that and quickly added “Not that that’s an excuse.”

    And what’s sad is that Elizabeth Edwards is now being criticized for staying with her husband and remaining silent about the affair. Why should she be obligated to say anything to the press about it?

  8. Kel Kelly Blog - From Tiger To Pussy Says:

    [...] what you want about Mark Sanford’s ramblings about finding his soul mate or John Edwards’ unthinkable act of cheating on his terminally ill wife. At least when their cats came out of the bag, they took a “suck it up” pill and fell on their [...]

  9. Kel Kelly Blog - Really…Really John (Edwards)…Really!?! Says:

    [...] on August 9, 2008, I wrote a blog post entitled “Edwards Wins Gold For Mea Culpa.” The net/net of the post was about giving props to John Edwards for having the balls to not only [...]

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