By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Follow the money

The media shouldn’t give John Edwards a pass just because his political career appears to be over. A New York Times story today summarizes a number of loose ends over his affair with Rielle Hunter. Here are some questions:

  • Edwards says he’s willing to take a paternity test, but Hunter has refused. Why? To put it another way: Who benefits from her refusal? And what would she risk if she said “yes”?
  • If Edwards’ friend Andrew Young really is the father, why isn’t his name on the birth certificate? Why has he made what the Times calls “conflicting statements” about his paternity?
  • Why would Fred Baron throw his own money at both Young and Hunter to help them get out of Dodge? Yes, he’s described as a wealthy Edwards supporter, but doesn’t that seem like a bit much? Again, to put it another way: Was it really his own money? His personal wealth is the perfect cover, is it not?
  • Baron has already been pushed into denying that the money came from Edwards’ campaign funds. OK, but that is the question, isn’t it?

The counter-argument is that the media should leave Edwards alone now that he’s no longer in public life. What good could come of turning over rocks and watching to see what crawls out?

My answer is that the media couldn’t have anticipated the effects of their decision last fall to cover up evidence of Edwards’ affair with Hunter. As I argued yesterday, that decision may have changed the outcome of the presidential race.

Let the rock-turning commence.

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  1. michael

    >Edwards says he's willing to take a paternity test, but Hunter has refused. Why? I know this is a radical thought, but have you considered the possibility that she thinks it's nobody's business? If that is the case, she and I are in perfect agreement.This is without a doubt the most officious, nosy, gossipy post I have encountered since reading this blog.I hereby nominate Rielle Hunter for the Gary Condit Award, presented to those who, whatever their faults, at least maintain the dignity of not talking to the press, thus sparing us one more cesspool.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Michael: She’ll be giving interviews soon enough. Just wait.

  3. Don, American

    Edwards’ political career over? Nonsense. Adultery and lying are Democrat resume enhancements. Just ask Slick Willie.

  4. Tony

    There is this guy, Lee Stranahan of Huffington Post, who has been doing some pretty interesting stuff on this issue ever since he was banned from Daily Kos for saying that Edwards needed to get ahead of this issue. someone who voted for Edwards, having met the guy and believing in his populist awakening, I have really mixed feelings about this entire mess. Clearly, he wasn’t the person many of us thought him to be. What I do find amusing though is that Obama came right out and first, eliminated any role Edwards had at the convention – even though he has 26 delegates – and two, ruled out any role he would have in his administration, as if we thought Edwards would actually have a role after this mess got kicked up. And yet, former President Bill Clinton, the man who was impeached, the man who some believe is a rapist, the man who perjured himself under oath, the man some call “Clenis,” has a prominent speaking role. Go figure.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Tony: Clinton’s faults may be greater than Edwards’ but his accomplishments are greater still. Edwards is basically Clinton with none of Clinton’s good qualities — a genuine interest in public policy, immersion in the arcana of issues, incredible political skills.

  6. jvwalt

    Does the widespread exposure of Edwards’ indiscretion mean that the rumors about McCain’s private life are now fair game? I don’t know anything about McCain, it’s just that his campaign reacted so vociferously last winter when there were hints about a possible relationship. I guess they have no grounds for complaint if someone digs around in his dirtpile.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    JV: Good point. I would argue that there is a statute of limitations, but I’m not sure where the cutoff should be.That said, the NY Times story on McCain was a disgrace: anonymous former aides (who may have been working for Romney) saying that they were worried that maybe he was having an affair.

  8. Tony

    Dan wrote: “[Clinton’s] accomplishments are greater still …” Umm, yeah, let’s say: Trade deals which destroyed the middle class and have helped to bring our nation to the brink of bankruptcy [admittedly, Edwards voted for PMFN trade status to China]; a Telecom Bill which put radio and television stations into the hands of a few corporations so we don’t get any real news about anything anymore; laying the groundwork for most idiots to approve and march in lockstep of Bush 43’s Patriot Act and sweeping terrorism nonsense by putting into place sweeping anti-Constitutional measures such as the first anti-terrorism bill, the crime bill, the gutting of the fourth amendment via HR 666; backing what, eight of the 10 provisions of the Contract with America?; need I go on? Then, there is all the rape and sexual assault stuff Clinton did, which Edwards has come nowhere near with this utterly stupid move. Yeah, Edwards is no Bill Clinton. For sure.

  9. Neil

    Tony you go from “the man who some people believe is a rapist”, to “there is all the rape and sexual assault stuff Clinton did” without any apparent pause. As if what some people believe, amounts to fact.”Some people” believe all manner of shit. I’m not saying you’re a rapist, but some people believe you are. This is the language of weasels. If you want to make the claim, do it yourself, and be prepared to back it up. Otherwise, refrain from such innuendo.Don, adultery and lying are human weaknesses shared by imperfect souls of all political persuasion. We are but human. To me the inevitable ritualistic denunciation is more repellent. When it’s used as an opportunity for a partisan jab, it is plain hypocrisy. The only person whose judgment matters in these cases is the aggrieved party, namely the spouse.I’m with first commenter Michael. Rielle Hunter’s reasons are nobody’s business but her own. Maybe she’ll decide to go public, but speculation in the meantime is pointless and sordid.

  10. Tony

    I’m sorry Neil, you’re correct. I should have called Clinton “an accused rapist and sexual harasser” in both posts.

  11. Aaron Read

    I know this is a radical thought, but have you considered the possibility that she thinks it’s nobody’s business?And not Elizabeth Edwards?Frankly, I think it’s a little late for Hunter to saying it’s nobody else’s business. The time to be thinking that was BEFORE she committed adultery…which is a crime in many states…with a potential Presidential candidate, ya know? It’s too late to learn that when you play with fire, you often get burned.

  12. Aaron Read

    BTW, I should point out that in the grand scheme of things, I really don’t care who Hunter or Edwards boinks.But the problem is that who-boinks-whom is, for better or worse, a major issue when it comes to elected officials in this country. As Dan has rightly pointed out, this almost certainly had a major influence on Hillary Clinton’s loss to Barack Obama in the primary. And it’s not like this sort of thing hasn’t been beaten into our collective skulls over and over and over and over in recent years.Another way to look at this is, if Edwards was so out of touch with the reality of Presidential campaigning that he thought he could get away with this, then he damn well SHOULDN’T be running for President. Man’s in more of a bubble than Dubya is, ya know? This sort of deconstruction of candidates is a vital part of the overall scheme of ensuring that they are as fit as they can be to be President. It’s not nice, nor is it clean, but it’s the modern reality.

  13. Neil

    The pro forma “I don’t care who X boinks but…” is a variant on Dan’s remark “when they say it’s not about sex, it’s about sex”, and the classic Seinfeld disclaimer “not that there’s anything wrong with that!”.I personally don’t care, disclaims the journalist but, for better or worse, the (prudish, dumbass) American public cares therefore, we’re not being salacious at all. On the contrary, we must engage in this rock-turning because it’s our journalistic obligation. So that the public can make an informed decision on a politician’s character. Right.Yes let the turning of rocks commence as Dan says. In preparation for their casting, by those of us without sin.

  14. alkali

    It certainly seems reasonable to claim that the media wasn’t aggressive enough on looking into this issue when Edwards was running for president. However, the argument of this post seems to be that even though Edwards’ political career is now over, the media is obligated to pursue the issue aggressively now in order to purge itself of its past sins. That just does not follow. If there’s nothing but prurient interest involved here, the media ought to let it go.

  15. Dan Kennedy

    Alkali: I agree completely. The money questions do not involve prurient interest, however.

  16. Aaron Read

    Nicely turned, Neil. Hoisted by my own petard, indeed. :-)Anyways, I do think your point is valid, but I’ll qualify what *I* said a little further: I don’t care so much who Edwards boinks, what I care about is that he’s boinking someone other than his wife. *Why* do I care? Because he was a potential Presidential candidate, and both as a journalist (which I am only vaguely one) and as a voter (which I am most definitely one) I believe in holding our elected officials to a higher standard.I’d also ask that you note that my point wasn’t about how Edwards shouldn’t be committing adultery because it’s immoral and that’s it. He shouldn’t have been doing it because it’s “common knowledge” (I hope) that inevitably the scandal will come to light and that the electorate will be pissed about. If Edwards wasn’t cognizant of that, then I would argue he’s so out of touch with reality that he was unfit for leadership.This logic doesn’t seem terribly tortured to me. Perhaps a little waterboarded, but nothing too bad. 🙂

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Aaron, Neil, et al.: Here’s the most important reason that Edwards’ sexual pecadilloes should have been pursued last fall — if he’d won the nomination and this had come to light now, he would lose. You can cite Bill Clinton all you want, but he was an exception. Besides, in 1992 he denied having had an affair with Gennifer Flowers, and it was never proved otherwise.I say this not as a partisan, but as a media observer. The media made an exception for Edwards that they didn’t make for Gary Hart, Bill Clinton or, in the case of John McCain, 10-year-old rumors from anonymous former aides who may have been working for Mitt Romney. Why?

  18. Nial Liszt

    Seven words that are radioactive to the MSM: “As first reported in the National Enquirer.”On what line do you put hush money on Form 1040, anyway?

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