Having been on vacation last week, I know I'm a little late on this issue, but, as someone who supported John Edwards during the Democratic primary, I feel obligated to announce that I'm disgusted by the situation between Edwards and Rielle Hunter. Cheating on your partner is an awful thing to do in the first place, but it's not unusual for politicians or people and I could probably forgive that.
Othercommentators have suggested the more disturbing issue is that Edwards attempted to secure the Democratic nomination knowing full well that his affair would very likely be unearthed at some point and torpedo his campaign and the Democratic party in the fall. The fact that he pushed forward seems like a brazenly irresponsible and selfish thing to do -- the sort of thing that would damage all of the progressive interests John Edwards claimed to be so passionate about. This in turn, suggests that John Edwards was always a self-promoting phony, someone whose enthusiasm for "poverty relief" was always a contrivance to advance his political career.
I think this criticism misses the mark slightly on two fronts: (1) I think its uncharitable to suggest that John Edwards can't be both a sleazy scumbag and someone who cares deeply about poverty issues. People are frequently complicated in precisely this way. (2) Even if Edwards' advocacy was completely fabricated, I think his presence in the Democratic primary still pulled the other candidates to the left in a way that was good for his issues. In other words, even if John Edwards' leftward lurch was a contrivance and even if an actual Edwards nomination would have been disastrous, the practical effect of his presence in the Democratic field was still net-positive for progressives. His status as a lying, cheating, scummy guy doesn't change that.
All that said, I find myself feeling even more disgusted with Edwards because his "confession" was so transparently inadequate. As I understand it, there is some underlying truth to the National Enquirer story and John Edwards was very likely at a hotel at 2:00 AM visiting Rielle Hunter. I don't understand how that can be squared with Edwards' current claim that he terminated the affair in 2006 and is not the father of Hunter's child. If he wasn't (a) having sex with Hunter or (b) visiting his child, what was he doing in that hotel room? Frankly, if the Enquirer story has any truth at all, I can't really imagine a scenario in which Edwards is telling the truth now.
Meanwhile, in the department of "Shut the hell up already", today Clitonite Howard Wolfson bitches that if Edwards had responsibly admitted the affair before running or had never run in the first place, Hillary would be the nominee. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com explains why that's nonsense, but, beyond that, I'm not really sure what Wolfson's point is. Any number of counter-factual scenarios could have landed Hillary with the nomination. Some even involve mastodons, I'm told.
In any case, you should listen to Camera Obscura's lovely and oddly appropriate, "Tears for Affairs" off of their 2006 Let's Get Out of This Country.