Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lose—Lose For Elizabeth Edwards

The on-line edition of New York Magazine has a must read snippet of the upcoming book Game Change. Titled Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster, it a deep, dark, and ugly expose of John Edwards' political fall from grace.

The story is not only about yet another hot-blooded Southern Democratic Presidential aspirant getting in trouble because he could not keep his libido under control, it is also a searing indictment of the woman behind the man.

One cannot read the article without losing one's faith in both Edwards's. The picture of "Saint Elizabeth," the woman behind the public persona is appalling. This is no modern day martyr; this is the Wicked Witch of the West on an off day.

Forget the sainted survivor of cancer; forget the woman whose struggle with the disease captivated you. Meet the new Lizzy, self-centered, vicious, callous, bitter, and mean. Meet hell on wheels. Meet the woman who threatened her staffers with having their health care pulled if she did not get any for herself. Meet the woman who treated the people around her like garbage. Meet the wife who constantly tore her husband down. Meet the very definition of "harridan."

If you follow the trends of gossip journalism, you know this article is just the beginning. The carefully crafted façade of Elizabeth Edwards is about to get a wrecking ball make-over. Her story is just too easy for it not to happen. Having bought into the meme of Madonna, the meme of holy martyr, she set herself to be discovered as the fish-mongers wife. This is shooting fish in a barrel. This fits in to a facile, misogynist meme far too easily.

No move Elizabeth makes can save her now. The flood gates are open. If she sticks with John Edwards, she will be berated just like Hillary Clinton was. Strike that, she will be pilloried from post to post in a way that will be far worse than Hillary had to endure. Remember John started the affair right when Elizabeth discovered cancer for the second time. At the very least that is incredibly bad optics. Her hanging on to John was always more than a little pathetic; with this article it becomes contemptible.

The option of leaving is also fraught with danger. It may start out well enough, but our misogynist culture being what it is; the glow will wear out fairly quickly. Remember there is a long line of pissed off people she stepped over, on, and through just waiting to deliver retribution. Plus there is the fact that Elizabeth was always a part of her husband's team. She is bound to him in a personal and political way that was never healthy. Without her husband offering accidental coverage, Elizabeth will soon enough be held to account for her own bad behavior. The New York Magazine has already stripped away a large part of her image, her leaving John guarantees the rest of the legend of Saint Elizabeth will be replaced with something far less attractive.

Thus if she either stays or leaves John Edwards, Elizabeth loses. The marriage is deader than an armadillo run over by big rig that much is certain. The very public breakdown, the galling humiliation of it, has killed the relationship. Every jot and title is not only known to Elizabeth but to anyone who wishes to read the mortifying details in print or on-line. Real forgiveness is totally out of the question, the only thing left in the relationship is the mutual contempt for each other. Elizabeth Edwards made her decision long ago; she sacrificed her marriage on the altar of political ambition; hers and Johns. Unfortunately that does not mean that a pretense of marriage could not be feebly attempted.

When one looks over the few scattered ashes of life gone horribly wrong, when you gaze over sacrificial fire and wonder what could have been, you wonder if this was always what was meant to be. Was the dynamic between John and Elizabeth always going to somehow end badly? At the very least, the couple found a way to magnify each other's faults, that much is certain.

The only way Elizabeth Edwards deals with this is by accepting her role as a public figure is over. It may not be fair, but she is as politically done as her husband. There is no recovery, no redemption, especially for Elizabeth; the cancer in her body will not give her adequate time. Maybe she finds some inner, private peace. If she does find inner peace; it is so much the better for her. It is the only option left to her, this personal, private, saving grace. In the public realm there is only heartbreak and humiliation for Elizabeth Edwards. For her, there is only tragedy and farce in the public arena; only lose-lose.