It seems yet another politician has strayed. John Edwards’ marital infidelity comes as a real disappointment to everyone everywhere, irrespective of politics or party affiliation. No one likes to see a marriage falter or fail, but it proves one important thing: all people are human, human beings make mistakes, and politicians are not exempt. The passage of time, the vigilance of the media, and the reality of living in a 24/7 news cycle have forced not only Edwards, but also his admired and health-challenged wife to go public. In this day and age, the bottom line is that a rumor unanswered in 24 hours effectively becomes "true."
In a statement Elizabeth Edwards released late Friday afternoon, she said her husband already informed her of his error, did so in a timely fashion (all things being equal), revealed it discretely, and they have been working on repairing the damage to their relationship ever since … in private.
John Edwards deceived himself by denying previous reports about his affair, using the convoluted logic that since the stories were not 100 percent accurate, they weren’t really true. Remarkably, it is hard to fathom how not just one of them, but both he and his wife, could have possibly believed that a story of this magnitude here would evade discovery and headlines. Of course, if such a story broke in France, the news of a politician having a mistress is bor-ing and would be on Page 3, if not buried further.
Nevertheless, the cocoon of silence has unraveled, exposing John and, collaterally, Elizabeth Edwards, to the scorching heat of summer. As a PR expert who has helped countless clients in crisis, I think the public confession allows John Edwards to expiate his transgression and, through that, a chance to restore his personal integrity. Is cheating on your spouse a sin? Sure. But John Edwards fell victim to the worst sin of all in my business: he believed his own PR and imagined himself "special," becoming “increasingly egocentric and narcissistic” in his own words.
When it comes to egocentric, narcissistic politicians believing themselves "special," I’d say John Edwards is not alone. Remember FDR, JFK, Bill Clinton, and Rudy Giuliani, among a long list of wanderlust warriors? No party gets bragging rights here.
I don’t agree with those pundits who claim John Edwards is down for the count politically. He’ll never be vice president now, but I don’t think he’ll disappear forever in ignominy. I predict he’ll just go to his corner for a necessary time out, where he’ll get the cold water of humiliation poured on him, and then get reacquainted with the leash laws of matrimony.
Michael Levine is the founder of the prominent PR firm LCO-Levine Communications Office based in Los Angeles (www.lcoonline.com ) and is the author of 19 books.
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