Why is it that we never get tired of stories about cheating men, their loyal wives and the evil women who steal the men away? We’ve already gone over and over the idea that men get off the hook while women are punished continually for sleeping with other women’s husbands.
Although I was supposed to hate Rielle Hunter, sleazy corruptor of former presidential hopeful John Edwards I found myself wondering why it was so easy. I was supposed to hate her because she slept with Edwards while his wife was battling cancer. I was supposed to hate her because Edwards is un-hatable; the former Great White Hope with no skeletons in his closet was clean cut, good looking and most importantly, his politics lined up with mine. This woman killed his chances.
Here’s the thing, though. I can’t hate Rielle Hunter. Her supposed “wild past” has been dragged out and dissected. Newsweek magazine talked about what a touchy-feely new-ager she is and how she compared Edwards to Gandhi. The Los Angeles Times called her a former and current groupie. Edwards pretended he didn’t know her and hid in Hunter’s hotel restroom while reporters from the National Enquirer stalked him in the lobby. The mainstream press ignored the story as long as possible but the Enquirer gets bragging rights. Finally, Hunter was finished off by countless anonymous commenters on the Internet chiming in about what an unattractive slut she is and how undeserving of Edwards she was. Same old story, eh?
You’d think, after all of these scandals going all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, that we’d have figured out that good leadership is not necessarily dependent on marital fidelity. It’s practically a presidential prerequisite, sleeping with other women. Isn’t there something wrong with those who don’t?
What is the most baffling factor here is that Edwards thought he could get away with it. Why did he think that? Did he really believe Hunter wouldn’t say anything to anyone? If he believed that he didn’t know her, or any woman, very well. Any idiot could have seen this coming. Rielle Hunter only deserves her share of hatred. This is Edwards’ scandal. He was the married man. He was the liar. He was the one with the most to lose.
Then again, maybe Edwards can piece it all together again the way Bill Clinton did after Gennifer Flowers exposed their affair. If the woman is reviled enough the candidate may be able to overcome the sin. If the baby is his? Not so much.
The Hunter/Edwards story happened to hit the news stream the same week a book declaring that the Bush administration has fabricated evidence to show that Iraq was somehow connected to the terrorist acts of 9/11. Ron Suskind’s “The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism” was pushed back to make room for the bigger story of the day. Surely one story was far more important than the other and yet the news outlets have been arguing with themselves about whether the Edwards story was news or not.