A bottomless morass. To defend is to reveal. To reveal is to implode. His indictment is the ultimate overkill. He is a disgraced and broken man. His neighbors shun and hiss at him. Former friends recall his negative references to the misbehavior of other elected officials with a sadistic smirk, and refer to him as a hypocrite. His handsome face works against him and spawns the label of "pretty boy." People are afraid to publicly feel sorry for him. He has become the definitive pariah. And now, he faces the prospect of prison.
He fell in love with another woman while his wife was battling cancer. He fathered a child with his mistress and initially denied responsibility, while a political aid falsely claimed paternity. Allegedly, he solicited and received funds from two friends which he funneled through political donations and used to secretly support his lover and their child. This is the predicate for the criminal charges now being tried in a federal courtroom.
All of this sordid mess will be laid out in excruciating detail as the government presents its case. The public watches with smacking lips as a lynch-mob atmosphere hovers over the proceedings. The judge has instructed the jury that their task is not to pass judgement on Edward's personal behavior but, rather, on his alleged misuse of campaign funds, as if this can realistically be done. You gotta be kiddin' me.
From a legal standpoint, the indictment stands on the flimsiest of shaky grounds. It is a stretch beyond the breaking point. For, if the monies in question were gifts, there has been no criminal conduct. If they were donations, this is consistent with guilt. Can this task of distinguishing be accomplished fairly, without the taint of personal misconduct? This is the Senator's challenge.
I feel sorry for John Edwards. I forgive him. I wish him better times. And here's why:
It's part of human nature to make mistakes and the impulse to cover them up is by no means peculiar to the former Senator. Many, many, many people share this human frailty. His disgrace will permanently prevail, in most quarters of public opinion, throughout his lifetime. He is not a well man. His trial had been scheduled to begin in January but was postponed when the judge apparently concurred with his lawyers' avowals that he had a serious heart problem which required treatment. He is a social leper and the fact that he has brought this on himself makes his scarlet letter all the more notorious. But I do believe that he is no longer in denial. He is paying for his sins with the dawn of each day. His baggage of errant behavior will constitute a tangible prejudicial presence in the courtroom. Potential jurors will swear to their ability to base their determination of facts "solely on the evidence" because they want front row tickets to the show. How can this man get a fair trial?
Were I his attorney, I would advise him to take the stand and acknowledge his transgressions openly and with somber sincerity. My defense would be predicated upon the quite plausible theory that the monies received were gifts rather than "contributions" as defined in the campaign financing statutes. Senator Edwards can save his own day by testifying truthfully under oath. This is a difficult path to follow but, at the same time, it can mark the beginning of the road back.
His ordeal is in the home stretch. And yet, this trial could be his salvation. He can earn his redemption.
And his forgiveness.
Other politicians have done worse and lived for a better day.
I wish him alleviation.