It’s a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. A handsome, charismatic and seemingly idealistic leader with the ambition to lead his nation (and the will and wealth to get there) is brought to ruin by his baser desires, undone by a midlife affair with a hanger-on, with whom he fathers a child – as his wife is dying of cancer.
Now, the wife is dead, the little girl is three years old, the other woman has faded from the headlines and the former Senator from North Carolina is facing charges of that he violated federal campaign finance laws by "secretly obtaining and using" contributions to conceal his mistress and their baby while he was running for president in 2008.
My question is this: What is the point of this indictment? A federal grand jury has been investigating John Edwards for two years to hand down these six-counts: One count for conspiracy, four related illegal payments and one involved false statements. If found guilty, Edwards faces a possible thirty years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
Before I say another word, let me say that, while I am not one of those journalists who shies away from stating political opinions (I have never made a secret of my time spent working for Al Gore, or my support of President Obama, for example, after he received the Democratic party nomination), I was never an Edwards supporter. I want my opinions on this case to be understood as independent of any political views I have about John Edwards, because they are. I think John Edwards was a fool, a disgrace to his party and a bad husband. But I also think the fact that the government is spending taxpayer money to prove Edwards misused campaign contributions is an ironic waste.
For one thing, they don’t have much of a case. The government can't convict John Edwards for being a fool, disgrace to his party or a bad husband. Half the people in DC would be behind bars, if that were the case. Think about the witnesses in this case alone: The other woman, Rielle Hunter, the former aide Andrew Young, who claimed initially he was the father of Rielle's baby in order to hide the baby's true paternity. These are the kinds of people we are dealing with here.
Second, does anyone really care? It’s true, very few Americans – read jurors – like John Edwards anymore. His star has plummeted from once-hopeful presidential contender to a man who stands accused of using trickery, deception and a pair of wealthy benefactors to hide his affair and love child from American voters. But this prosecution is unprecedented. The government is relying on an obscure 11-year old FEC advisory opinion to pursue a criminal case. And while jurors may judge Edwards’ personal choices harshly, it will be difficult to convince them that he broke the law.