Edwards: The Politics of Infidelity

I’ve never been a John Edwards fan. Any guy who claims he’s a leftist for poverty activism but spends $400 a month on an unremarkable haircut just strikes me as being strangely out of touch with the very people he claims to be fighting for.
But, then again, I pay $15 for my haircut, so what do I know?
Haircuts aside, the guy’s in hot water and I feel for him and his wife. It’s come out now that he fucked up and had an affair in ’06. Is it the only one? No way to know for certain. Does it matter? Not sure it does. Is it really a scandal of this proportion? Really?
I mean, there are sex scandals and there are sex scandals. The Walter Mosley “Nazi” BDSM video, that’s a scandal. Governor Spitzer blowing thousands and thousands of dollars on hookers while married and in office, that’s a scandal.
A guy cheats on his wife? Scandalous, but not a scandal. It’s not worth much ink, as they say. Infidelity sucks, but it happens.
I don’t really see who gains from this story coming out, or how it should reflect on his ability to govern, or why we need to know or care.
As far as I’m concerned, there are three kinds of cheaters.

  • There’s the Accidental Cheater: The kind of partner who’s really invested in the relationship and has always been faithful, but who had a weak moment at a weak time where the chemistry and intensity was pretty insurmountable, and instead of being perfect, had the misfortune of being human and fucking up, in more ways than one.
  • There’s the Situational Cheater: The partner who had every intention of staying faithful and being “there” in the partnership, but with a lack of sex and poor communication and isolation developing and maintaining within the relationship, decides to seek companionship elsewhere to get what they “need” emotionally and physically.
  • There’s the Compulsive Cheater: The Compulsive would cheat no matter how good a relationship is and smacks of the sex-addicted type. This is kind of person who wants to sleep around but isn’t honest enough about it to be in a polyamorous situation, sometimes because they think they deserve sexual variety but don’t want their lover to have it.

Then there are the people who don’t believe in cheating. And I’m one.
I think it’s a shitty fucking thing to do to someone. When I found out I’d been used as an “other woman” once many years ago, when the guy lied about not being in a relationship with an old friend of mine just to get me in bed with him, I actually told my friend about his infidelity. I’m just that way. Honest and old-fashioned, that’s me.
Still, I don’t know if I could get through 30 years of marriage without ever having an Accidental Cheating occur. You get that perfect storm of chemistry and sexiness and opportunity and timing and mood, and sex can be a pretty hard thing to turn down. Whew, can it.
Edwards slept with a woman making a documentary film about his campaign. You think she wasn’t fawning over him a little? There’s nothing sexier than someone who worships you a little but has brains and a life of their own. When someone smart, accomplished, and hot adores you a little but in a liberated and articulate way, it’s really a turn-on. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of that knows what it’s like. Wild. Or maybe she was just empathetic on a tough day. Who knows?
I’m not laying blame on her, though. It takes two. I’m just saying it’s understandable that something might happen in some scenarios, that hormones are a challenge to overcome at times.
But it sure as hell beats getting a blowjob from an intern half your age in the Oval Office and lying under oath about it.
I mean, if the guy came clean long, long before it ever hit the press, and the family knew of it in entirety, and his wife says she was told very soon after it all… is it really our business?
Doesn’t it say more about the guy that he could have the affair, tell his wife, and then work with her to get past it? Doesn’t he get some credit for honesty? How long do you have to be married before you’re allowed to make a mistake you not only own up to, but repent to?
No relationship is without its flaws, and no person is without errors. We all make mistakes in a life that’s dictated by in-the-moment impulse decisions.
I may be very much opposed to cheating in all its forms, but that doesn’t mean I could never forgive a man for making that mistake. And it doesn’t mean I think I’ll never be above being human and making that kind of mistake, either. I’m a passionate person. I’m moral, honest, and loyal, but I’m also passionate and impulsive. I fear the latter two qualities might one day overwhelm my virtue, and I too could fall guilty of such a mistake.
If, however, I ever do fuck up like Edwards did, I would hope my lover could see more than just the mistake, and instead of just latching onto their anger and the sense of betrayal, they could take me at my word for my regret and self-disdain. I would hope for a chance at redemption. I would hope for the chance to prove my remorse and reestablish trust.
Edwards was lucky and got just that. Who are we to judge him more harshly than his lover and partner of 30 years? It’s their relationship. If they’ve made their peace and they’re working together to overcome it, then who the fuck is the media to second-guess it, and why do we care?

10 thoughts on “Edwards: The Politics of Infidelity

  1. D.P.

    I’m probably having a really thick-headed brain day, but just to clarify, when you say:

    “But it sure as hell beats getting a blowjob from an intern half your age in the Oval Office and lying under oath about it.”

    …you’re saying what Edwards did was worse than what Clinton did, right? Or am I reading that in the opposite way you intended?

    Here’s my question to you–and I’m struggling with this one myself. You say:

    “Any guy who claims he’s a leftist for poverty activism but spends $400 a month on an unremarkable haircut just strikes me as being strangely out of touch with the very people he claims to be fighting for.”

    And then:

    “If they’ve made their peace and they’re working together to overcome it, […] why do we care?”

    Why do we care about the price of his haircut? Edwards gives to charitable organizations, worked and works pro bono on cases, and still has the money to spend on the haircut. Is there a supposition here that in order to be an activist in the politics of poverty, you have to be poor too? (That wouldn’t work well, as our skewed courts and political system need wealthy people to fight what is an expensive fight.)

    It seems to me that if you’re arguing that we should–or you do–care about the price of his haircut and his politics, then it would follow that you’re also arguing that you care about his affair, too. Where’s the connect–or disconnect–between caring about the haircut, and not caring about the affair?

    Isn’t it, maybe, that we shouldn’t car about either? I don’t know; I’m confused on this, but you seem to touch on it here.

    Although I acknowledge that I think I’m having a tough time expressing this, re: my thick headedness today.

  2. D.P.

    D’oh, I am having a brain-fart day. I forgot to add:

    I really don’t care about either the haircut or the affair. Presidents cheat, and I don’t think it makes a difference as long as it doesn’t endanger national security (Kennedy…hmmm); Edwards, not a huge fan for president, but I love the fact that someone with the means (wealth) is willing to put that wealthy to work, not just in charitable organizations, but also in the form of his stature and his legal work.

    So that was the core of my question to you: why care about the haircut and not the cheating? Why not care about both?

  3. Scribe Called Steff

    No, no, I think what Clinton did was wrong and deserving of controversy — I think it was way overblown and a malicious attack by Republicans and Starr, but I still think what Clinton did was wrong and he needed to be accountable for his lies and lack of judgment while in office.

    I think Edwards is to be applauded for being honest about it to the people who matter, and I don’t think he should need to be accountable to the public. (One could make an argument that chronic infidelity is reflective of character, but I think a one-time infidelity is a different matter altogether.)

    Re: my quip on the haircut–
    I’m not saying you have to be poor. I just think anyone paying $400 for a pretty ordinary haircut is kind of ridiculous. It’s pompous and stupid, in my humble broke-ass point of view. (It’s different if there’s a dye job involved and stuff like that, because that escalates prices ridiculously, but…)

    I’ve liked some of Edwards’ work, but something about him has always struck me as disingenuous, something I can’t really put my finger on. I guess I should say I’ve never had a problem with him, I do respect him for the most part, but I’ve just never been a “fan” of him, I guess. As politicians go, he’s better than many of his colleagues, and I think he’d have been a good VP. However, there are politicians who excite me, and he’s not one. I’m somewhat indifferent.

    And I think blowing a lot of money on a haircut is obviously a matter of personal choice, and, no, I don’t think you need to be poor to be interested in abating poverty, but I just see some unwitting irony in being a spokesperson for poverty with a very average-looking haircut that costs $400 but could probably be had for $75 or less, you know? When money management is such a big part of politics, such a choice seems somewhat frivolous to me, and bad PR. And it’s obviously not par for the course in politics, too, since we don’t hear much about $400 haircuts on the Hill.

    But mostly I was just trying to be cute. And you’re being thickheaded and too serious. đŸ™‚

  4. Scribe Called Steff

    Re your second comment: Another POV is that I tend to read into things like a politician’s excessive spending on things like a haircut, though, because I wonder just how frivolous their handling of money overall is, and when you’re a politician running on a platform against poverty, and you’re going to need to run the tightest financial ship in order to accomplish your goal of fighting poverty… so, $400 on a haircut?

    Yeah, it just doesn’t jive for me.

  5. D.P.

    Yes on the thickheadedness and seriousness–my fatal flaw when commenting on blog posts!

    Now I see the haircut issue you have with Edwards, and I have to say the way you put it makes me agree with you.

    The Clinton saga is another monster subject altogether. I just think it was strangely politically ironic that he was being held accountable–by Republicans–for his personal lies about sex and lack of judgment (about sex) in office, when they themselves were being irresponsible by actually trying to politically destroy–and impeach a president–for a damn blowjob.

    Bad judgment, hell yes, but do we really need to depose our president for it, while we’ve let so many other do so much worse (like, oh, say, wage senseless wars, kill innocents, etc?).

    Expose it, sure, but why impeach?

    But alas, this is a sex blog! Maybe Hunter was right; politics is better than sex.

  6. Scribe Called Steff

    Don’t even get me started on the impeachment of Clinton. I think he deserved to be rebuked for his serious lack of judgement, but impeachment was just political skulduggery at its best. It was cheap, it was excessive, it was hypocritical, it was divisive on a national scale, and it was a mockery of jurisprudence.

    He was stupid. He handled it badly. But he wasn’t a criminal. When you’re stupid and handle things badly, you deserve the embarrassment that comes with, and possibly even the professional repercussions most of the time, but that was a fucking crock.

    And how the hell impeachment has never come about in the Bush administration when a blowjob was the highwater mark only a decade ago, but apparently a wrongly waged war and administration-ordered torture are par for the political course?

    Fucked right up. That’s what it is.

    Maybe if Bush was getting head in the Oval Office by 20-somethings Iraq never would’ve happened.

  7. Scribe Called Steff

    Meant to say:

    And how the hell is it that impeachment has never come about in the Bush administration when a blowjob was the highwater mark only a decade ago, but apparently a wrongly waged war and administration-ordered torture are par for the political course?

  8. D.P.

    Bush II will have to get caught snorting coke off Cheney’s a$$ to be impeached, or at least to be shamed out of office by his fellow Repubs.

    Off color comment, sure (not to mention a disturbing image), but it’s making me laugh in the midst of an otherwise sad administration.

  9. Seraph

    Oh god d.p, I really could have done without that image. Thanks.

    I think I agree with you on most points, Steff. Being from NC, I get to hear a lot about Edwards…and yeah, the haircut thing offends me more than the affair, really. People here are all *shocked* that a handsome young politician slept with a woman not his wife; my reaction is mostly so what? Handsome young politicians do that. Duh.

    But yeah, my friggin’ *dad* gets $20 haircuts at the local barber and I like his hair better.

  10. Scribe Called Steff

    No, no, imagine it: Bush II snorting the coke off Cheney’s big pasty ass, Dick drooping a cigar from his sneering lips as he cradles a shotgun in his arms, hunting compatriots hiding behind trees and large boulders…

    Seraph —

    You’re pissed about it, too? I heard that and lost all my respect for him. Just — whoosh, like a giant swirlie. $400 for a guy’s typical hairdo. God.

    Fuckin’ funny about your dad.

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