Friday, March 23, 2007

A Single Dissenting Voice

Not a technical glitch.

UM. After the Edwards press conference yesterday, I expected both sides of the aisle to offer best wishes for Mrs. Edwards and some mixed reviews for Edwards himself. I did NOT expect that his own part of the decision would draw no criticism at all and attract more praise than trepidation. I'd prefer to remain silent myself, because I wish both of them well in this private matter between them. But somebody has to say it. John Edwards's conduct in this matter is highly questionable precisely because he has made an intensely private and personal matter a public affair with extremely public potential consequences.

The reason there's "No Image Available" for this post is that nobody can imagine just how ugly this situation could get. I'm going to be allusive rather than vivid here, since I don't like to be discussing this at all, so activate your mind's eye. Network television cameras where nobody wants them, except they will be there. An official party nominee in the final stages of an election campaign who suddenly resigns (or doesn't), putting his party and nation into a miserable quandary. A distracting siege in the White House itself, with few willing to voice the extremity of a leadership crisis at a critically inopportune time. Yes, these are all eventualities that could happen to any first family, but the probabilities here are, well, different.

Worse, and perhaps even uglier, a husband who simply cannot be there to hold hands during all the routine checkups (scary), tests (scarier), treatments (scary and painful), good news (joy), not so good news (terrifying), and, well, enough of that. Yeah, I know, a strong woman may be determined not to seem to need this kind of support, but there's also a certain kind of husband who knows when to overrule even the strongest woman and make it clear he's going to be a sticking plaster to share the ordeals, protect her privacy from prying eyes, and be with her because he doesn't want to be anywhere else.

Dean Barnett wrote a beautiful, empathetic, and oh-so-subtly doubtful essay about the decision the Edwards have made. He knows whereof he speaks, but his point of view is inevitably tilted toward the perspective of Elizabeth Edwards, whose courage and present mindset he undoubtedly understands better than I do. My only disagreement with him has to do with John Edwards's role in this decision, which -- given the national affairs issues involved -- merits at least some thoughtful, and skeptical, questioning rather than unbridled praise.

I'll say what no one else will. This gives me greater doubts than I had before about John Edwards as a man and a candidate. I'm sorry if this sounds inappropriate, but the truth is it is appropriate because it's not just his business anymore. He made it my business about 24 hours ago.

And now it's your business too. Remember that.

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