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Opening Arguments

The Rielle deal

A very strange column in USA Today defending John Edwards as a "victim of the morality police":

The decision to prosecute Edwards makes the Justice Department lawyers look more like morality police than defenders of the American political system. The stretch they are making to link the money from Mellon and Baron to Edwards' presidential campaign seems to be a thinly veiled effort to criminalize the adultery of a high public figure — for no good reason other than moral outrage.

It's easy not to like Edwards. Only 3% of respondents in a recent CBS News/New York Times poll said they have a favorable view of him. Thirty percent said the first thing that comes to mind when they think of him is that he cheated on his wife, who died in 2010 after a long, public battle with cancer.

But my gut tells me that the case against Edwards springs from the worst intentions of Puritanism, rather than the best values of the American legal system.

Boy. I know we've had some interesting debates about political morality and whether public lives should be judged by the sins of private lives. But Edwards sank to such low levels of sordidness that it seems to justify even the harshest judgment for moral misdeeds. He didn't make a mistake in judgment -- he showed a completely amoral lack of judgment. And the more we learn about the truly strange Rielle Hunter, the more bizarre the idea seems that Edwards was ever taken seriously as a candidate:

Hunter would use the cash to pay her California “spiritual adviser” for consultations — at $8,000 and $1,000 a pop, Cheri said.

The loopy Hunter once even consulted her guru simply because a waiter brought the wrong kind of dressing for her reuben sandwich, Cheri said.


Tue, 05/01/2012 - 8:33pm

Honestly, I wonder to what extent your desire to further punish Edwards stems from the fact that he happens to be a Democrat. If he were a Republican, you would be going on about the waste of taxpayers' money prosecuting man who is already ruined. Furthermore, in the wake of Citizens United, it appears unlikely that his arrangement with his mistress would even be illegal today.

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 8:44pm

In addition, if "sordidness" is your measure, how is Edwards any more dispicable than, say, Newt Gingrich? Newt's wife recovered, but that was just a matter of luck.

Tim Zank
Wed, 05/02/2012 - 8:14am

Hey Littlejohn, you wanna 'splain for us how Citizens United clears the path for candidates campaign money to buy their mistress a Jag and a condo, and baby clothes & psychic's etc?

Please cite for us. I'm thinking that SCOTUS decision specifically addressed how donations to campaigns are made not anything to do with how the donations are then spent.

Wed, 05/02/2012 - 5:01pm

Tim, superpacs can spend money any way they wish, including supporting a candidate's mistress. Next question.

Tim Zank
Wed, 05/02/2012 - 7:05pm

Not LEGALLY Littlejohn. You are incorrect. Again.