Elizabeth Edwards: Decision to Separate from John ‘Sad and Terrifying’

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Elizabeth, the cancer-stricken ex-wife of former presidential candidate and senator John Edwards, opened up for the first time about her divorce in a candid talk this morning with Today host Matt Lauer. Largely, she discussed the changes in her husband. "I think I did marry a marvelous man," she said when Matt brought up an old quote of hers. "I think he changed over time. And he's no longer the person who I married." Watching the appearance of Rielle Hunter (Edwards's mistress and the father of his love child) on Oprah, Edwards thought to herself, "I still think this person is so completely unlike me it’s hard to think the same man could marry me and be attracted to that woman as well." Looking back on her years of marriage, Elizabeth wondered whether she'd wasted her time. "I decided that I didn't, that maybe I didn’t get the same things out of it I expected to, or that I thought I was at the time," she said. "But when I look back, there's really lots of blessings that I've had." Deciding to divorce her husband was, she added, "a sad and terrifying decision."

Elizabeth also briefly addressed the books that painted her in an unflattering light, first former aide Andrew Young's book The Politician, and the political narrative by our own John Heilemann and Time blogger Mark Halperin, Game Change. The first she said was "so filled with lies that I don’t consider it having any bearing whatsoever on the truth particularly with respect of me." The second, which was first excerpted in New York Magazine, she said was actually "useful," because it let her know how harshly she was perceived during the campaign. "I thought of the people who worked in the campaign not as people who worked for John or for me, I thought of them as people with whom I worked. I thought of us as equals." When she would debate strategy or points, she imagined she was operating as an equal. "Clearly they didn’t have that perception. They thought I was the boss's wife or whatever. I didn’t take that into consideration and I really needed to."

Meanwhile, what is John up to? Gabe Sherman in The New Republic gives us some insight. For one thing, he can't get a normal job: He can no longer be a trial lawyer (imagine being a jury having to look at that mug for days on end), and he can't be in politics. So he's working with the poor in Haiti and El Salvador, and when he's not doing that, he's living it up in North Carolina, hanging out at private parties and dive bars with names like "The Wooden Nickel." One time, he showed up accidentally at a college party called "Prom." The student at the door convinced him to come in:

Once he was inside, students came up to snap photos with him. One attendee recalled that he wore his wedding ring. Edwards lapped up the attention. “He was graciously taking pictures for thirty minutes,” [student Matthew] Jentgen says. Not everyone was thrilled, though. “Some people there had worked on his campaign and were still excited to see him,” Jentgen recalls. “Others, obviously, were not.” Edwards stayed for two hours, leaving around midnight. He drank white wine and light beer, according to multiple attendees. After a while, Edwards made his way to the dance floor. “He was kind of uncomfortably dancing,” Jentgen says. “He was just happy to be with people who weren’t going to judge him.” Edwards cut loose, dancing to everything from salsa to Wreckx-n-Effect’s 1992 rap hit “Rump Shaker.”

Below, the final moments of Elizabeth Edwards's Today show interview:

After the Fall [TNR]