If you made it all the way through the Olympic opening ceremony last night and stayed up to watch John Edwards on Nightline, you would have seen the confession of a contrite, eloquent, and still bizarrely smug man. Throughout his interview with Bob Woodruff, Edwards delivered repeated apologies and justifications for his affair with Rielle Hunter.
"Can I explain to you what happened?" he asked Woodruff. "First of all, it happened during a period when she was in remission from cancer." Edwards went on to tell the tale of his youth as a "small-town boy in North Carolina" who "came from nothing," and about his meteoric rise to fame as a lawyer and politician, with people constantly telling him how great he was. "All of which, self-focus, egotism, and narcissism, leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want, that you're invincible, that there will be no consequences," he said. "Nothing could be further from the truth." But while he had moments of seemingly deep honesty, he still avoided some truths. When Woodruff asked him when the affair ended, Edwards declined to specify. "Here's the way I feel about this, Bob," he said, grinning. "I feel that my family is entitled to every detail. They've been told every detail. Elizabeth knows everything. I think this is where it stops."
Edwards characterized the affair as "short," and said he "didn't think anybody would know about it." He denied that Rielle Hunter's child was his, and offered to take a paternity test. Elizabeth, his cancer-battling wife, immediately forgave him, he added. "She responded exactly like the kind of woman she is," he explained. "She forgave me and we began working on it."
Throughout the interview, there were several moments that made us physically queasy. When Bob Woodruff asked where Elizabeth was, since she wasn't at the interview, Edwards pointed to his heart and said, "She's here. She's always here." Apparently not always, John. It was comforting, though, not to see her have to sit through the interview. As Edwards reasoned, "she didn't do anything wrong." Elizabeth herself blogged her own commentary at Daily Kos:
Although John believes he should stand alone and take the consequences of his action now, when the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him. John made a terrible mistake in 2006. The fact that it is a mistake that many others have made before him did not make it any easier for me to hear when he told me what he had done. But he did tell me. And we began a long and painful process in 2006, a process oddly made somewhat easier with my diagnosis in March of 2007.
As for the National Enquirer's reporting, which exposed the story in the first place, Edwards confirmed last night that he was indeed at the Beverly Hills Hilton last month to meet with Hunter, where the tabloid caught him in the lobby. "I was there for a very simple reason — that I was trying to keep this mistake that I had made from going public," he said. He denied that the picture the Enquirer published of him with a child was from that night. When Woodruff asked him about the tabloid's reports that Edwards had arranged payments from his supporters to Hunter, the former senator blithely replied: "Can I just say everything you're saying, 'there were reports,' 'there were allegations' — these are all things the supermarket tabloids said, that make the most outrageous allegations, every week." Mmm. Hey John? In this whole mess, if we had to choose to believe either you or the Enquirer, you wouldn't be our first pick, buddy.
At the end of the Nightline episode, they confirmed that neither John nor Elizabeth Edwards will be speaking at the Democratic National Convention, contrary to earlier reports.
Edwards Admits Sexual Affair; Lied as Presidential Candidate [ABC News]
Elizabeth Edwards' Diary [Daily Kos]
Earlier: Edwards Admits to Affair