As every media outlet dissects John Edwards’ thud to earth, my mind keeps skipping over the tawdry details and necessary questions about his behavior – and lands on the same focal point…Elizabeth Edwards.
I have heard all the sound bites, starting with Edwards himself. McCain and Hillary gave terse responses to the breaking story. Obama acknowledged the situation, expressing his support for the healing process that needs to take place.
Elizabeth Edwards posted her own comment on Daily Kos. She was clear about how painful this episode was to her, but she reaffirmed her commitment to her life partner of thirty years. She let him face the cameras and reporters’ questions on his own, setting a new model for political spouses who may find themselves in similar straits in the future. She has asked for a modicum of respect and privacy for her family (read children).
It’s impossible to know if Elizabeth Edwards asked or encouraged her husband to admit to his liaison publicly, before he decided to run for the Presidency. Maybe she believed that he had so much to offer the country that his recklessness was immaterial. Perhaps she felt that she had enough of a burden to bear in dealing with her illness, and decided that denial was the best strategy. I’m sure there are plenty of people who believe she was complicit all along.
In the end, she has publicly coped with a series of life traumas that other women have been able to struggle with in private…the loss of a child, a life-threatening disease, a cheating husband.
Elizabeth Edwards will get through this. We have seen her grit and fortitude in the past. What the public will be questioning, when they go deeper than their initial reaction of empathy, will be what role she played in how this crisis was handled.
It should be noted…it is always easier to stand on the outside and make clear-headed judgments.