Friday, June 1, 2012

John Edwards' Sins Explicated (But Not Expiated!) (Gotta Get Rid of That Guy!)

Today, on National Doughnut Day (when it was formerly announced that Mayor (3-Terms!) Bloomberg will be further cleaning up New York City environs (so to speak) by banning sugary drinks over 16 ounces - thus forcing everyone to buy multiple smaller cups) the stock market dropped by over 278 points (wiping out the year's gains), Italy was downgraded to B+, gold rebounded amid new recession fears, and the CNBC crowd went wild over how Obama's stimulus REALLY hadn't worked (not that they'd ever be admitting that such a small stimulus was guaranteed not to work), the awestruck audience here at Pottersville wonders if this also could be blamed on that villain, John Edwards, who undoubtedly will not be retried (to the MSM Greek chorus's outraged horror) after being found not guilty on the only important count about campaign violations that the jury could find any compelling evidence on at all.

As you may remember I called the John Edwards' hysteria (malicious prosecution, if not persecution) for what it was (right, another feeding frenzy on the only real advocate for the poor running) at the beginning of the backfence chatter. I don't want to say "I told you so," but it seemed to me to be just one more aggressive case of partisan skullduggery mirroring exactly what had happened to all the progressives in this country who questioned (in any way) the sense it made (as far as strengthening a weakened and financially floundering country) to encourage choice fun wars (for those enriching themselves by them and not actually having to fight them) and increasing an enormously large unemployed underclass, resulting from the policy of not caring about the growing inequality between the upper and lower classes.

As I looked around the web for what others were saying yesterday, I found quite a bit of support for my thesis.

John Edwards

Ian Welsh
2012 May 31
His trial has been declared a mistrial.

The personal is not the political. His wife seemed like a good person, but I could care less.  FDR cheated on his wife.  JFK screwed hookers in the White House pool while married.

The facts about John Edwards that I care about are these:

1) He was the only major politician who made a big issue of poverty.

2) He was the only major politician to say he didn’t believe in the war on terror.

3) the reason the affair came to light is because he stopped paying her off, which he did because he was no longer in the race.

The children who thought that having a black president, despite the fact that he was, on the policies, worse than EVERY other democratic nominee, are why the US is so fucked right now.  (And yes, he was worse on policy than even Hillary Clinton.  Don’t believe me, believe Paul Krugman.)

Edwards trial was a politically motivated show trial.  The goal was to make sure that everyone thinks that there was no left wing candidate in the election, and that Obama is the best you can ever do.  Well, that and a personal hatred, as best I can tell.  Obama refused to cut a deal with Edwards for support.  What did Edwards ask for in exchange for support?  Help for the poor.

Obama did cut a deal with Clinton, of course.  He let her have State, so she could influence foreign policy, the ONE policy area where she was to his right.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Amanda Marcotte, who writes for Salon and Pandagon, actually knew John Edwards and had worked for him briefly before being interviewed by the FBI fishing expedition agents.

Few things are more disconcerting than answering your door wearing shorts and a tank top and finding be-suited FBI agents sticking badges in your face and asking to speak to you about a former, remarkably brief job you held three years prior. As soon as the agents dropped the name “John Edwards,” I figured that no matter what this was about, I might as well let them in and be as cooperative as possible.
After a few questions about my two weeks on the campaign, it became obvious to everyone in the room that they were wasting their time with me because I had literally no information whatsoever about the campaign’s finances, much less any potential financial irregularities, leaving me nearly apologizing to them as I let them out of the apartment 10 minutes later. All I could do after such a weird event was to hop on chat to tell a friend, “Huh, I think maybe John Edwards is in trouble for campaign finance law violations.”
It all seemed very serious to me at the time, which is why I was astonished when the charges finally emerged. It seemed that federal prosecutors desperately wanted to find a way to legally punish Edwards for adultery, and their only hope of doing that was to reclassify hush money paid by private Edwards supporters directly to Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young as a campaign contributions, even though the money didn’t go to the campaign and “hush money for mistresses” has never before been treated like a traditional campaign expense. Luckily, the jury seems to have seen through the ruse, finding Edwards not guilty of one charge, and drawing a mistrial on the rest.

With the news of Karl Rove crowing about how he intends to spend $1 billion in untraceable funds to beat Obama in 2012, it looks particularly ridiculous for the government to waste resources on a showboat prosecution. Even the conservative news magazine National Review had to denounce the prosecution as a waste. John Edwards has been disgraced, humiliated and run out of politics. Bringing the full force of the law down on him on top of it all just seems greedy.

It’s become customary in politically obsessed circles for observers to preen about how they knew that Edwards was bad news all along. His lawyerly ways! His sentimental stories about growing up working class! His hair! How could his silly supporters not see him for the philandering phony he so clearly was?

Of course, a quick perusal of the John Edwards of 2007 demonstrates that this sort of hindsight owes more to revisionist wishful thinking than a correct assessment of the evidence at the time. Back then, the other potential Democratic nominees, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, were widely and correctly perceived as timid centrists who had a knee-jerk tendency to run from conflict the second conservatives ruffled their feathers.

Edwards, on the other hand, spoke convincingly of how change couldn’t come from  “negotiation and compromise,” arguing that the idea that corporate interests would voluntarily give away their power is “a fantasy.”

Long before the economic crash and Occupy Wall Street forced major Democratic politicians to address the question of growing inequality, Edwards’s famous “two Americas” rhetoric helped force the issue onto the table. Occupy boiled it down to the 1 Percent vs. the 99 Percent, but back in 2007, Edwards was taking cracks at “the very rich vs. everyone else.”

In the rush of headlines about Edwards’s despicable sexual behavior, what’s forgotten is how much his campaign haunted the primary contest between Clinton and Obama long after he dropped out. An early push in the campaign season from Edwards on healthcare reform set the tone for the rest of the election season on this issue.
Edwards put out a plan for healthcare reform before the other candidates, forcing the other candidates to release competing plans that were likelier farther to the left than they were comfortable promising. It’s arguable that without the primary season pressure from the Edwards campaign, the initial gambit of the Democrats in the healthcare reform battle — one that included a public option — wouldn’t have been as strong, which would have meant an even weaker bill than the one that eventually was pushed past conservative Democratic opposition.

Because of this, no one was hurt worse by the revelation that Edwards was cheating on his well-loved wife than his most ardent supporters. If he’d been outed sooner, he would have destroyed not just his own candidacy but all the hard work in getting income inequality and progressive health care reform into the 2008 campaign. For those who take those issues very seriously, this felt less like a boneheaded mistake and more like a betrayal.

But being weak-willed and disappointing your supporters can’t be treated like a crime, or else most of D.C. should be yanked from their cocktail parties and tossed into the clink.

Even those who’ll never be able to forgive Edwards for nearly destroying his legacy should be grateful for the good sense shown by the jury today. Let’s hope the Justice Department takes their lead and lets this one go.

Finally, from the "centrist" Outside the Beltway we learn:

This result isn’t entirely unexpected. I didn’t follow the Edwards trial on a regular basis, but from what I have followed over the past month it seemed fairly clear to me that the prosecution’s case was incredibly weak to say the least.

As I noted in a post I wrote when the trial was just starting, the argument at the center of the prosecutions case was that the money that Edwards’s supporters were funneling to Rielle Hunter, none of which ever went through the Edwards campaign itself, was essentially a campaign donation because it was intended to suppress the story of Edwards having an affair and fathering a child so that his campaign would not be damaged.

However, as the Editors of National Review, hardly people who are sympathetic to John Edwards politically, said in an editorial last month,that doesn’t mean it was or should be a crime:

The prosecution’s case is built upon a note from Mellon, who described herself as “furious” about the way in which Edwards was lampooned for his infamous $400 haircuts. “From now on,” she wrote, “all haircuts, etc., that are necessary and important for his campaign — please send the bills to me. . . . It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions.” And she did indeed write some $725,000 in checks for sundry expenses — all of which went to Hunter, not to the Edwards campaign.

Because none of the money went to the campaign, and none of the money went for campaign expenses — inasmuch as maintaining a mistress is not a campaign expense — it is difficult to see why this should be prosecuted as a campaign-finance violation. At most, the evidence would seem to justify charging Mellon with conspiring to subvert campaign-finance laws, though in the event those laws were not subverted, since her money did not go toward financing the Edwards campaign.

Campaign-finance laws are a tricky business, because they put political incumbents in charge of setting the rules under which their positions and their power may be challenged. Such laws should be as transparent and straightforward as possible, and prosecutions under them should be undertaken with proper care.

If Edwards et al. have committed other crimes, then they should be prosecuted, but to prosecute him under campaign-finance rules in a situation in which no campaign funds were used and no campaign expenses paid seems a stretch.

We have had enough unseemliness associated with Edwards without adding a questionable prosecution to the catalog.
Indeed. In fact, I would argue that, had Edwards been convicted today, he would have had an excellent chance of having that conviction set aside on appeal.

Of course, the legal matters in this case are not over yet. There are still five outstanding counts that Edwards could theoretically be re-tried on. My personal opinion, given the way in which this trial unfolded, is that the Federal Government should decline to bring this case back before a jury.

They had a trial that lasted more than a month, the jury deliberated for countless numbers of hours over the course of nine days, and they acquitted him on one charge and could not reach agreement on the others. There are plenty of adjectives that can be used to describe John Edwards, and I don’t think I need to repeat any of them here, but I just don’t see the need to put before yet another jury a case that most likely will end in deadlock the second time around.
But he's a pretty terrible guy anyway. Even though he never made public excuses for his bad behavior, wore diapers with prostitutes, lived in a free C Street Republican Party-funded prayer house while cheating on his wife, or disappeared for weeks to South America while cheating with a foreign girlfriend (all of which actually would have been forgiveable to voters as IOKIYAR).

Justice for John Edwards

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