February 16th, 2011

John Edwards Besmirches Both Americas

by Philip Baruth

As trainwrecks go, the Edwards debacle remains in a class by itself. Not simply entirely self-inflicted, but seemingly deliberately and methodically self-inflicted. The slashing campaign book Game Change made clear the extent of the madness: Edwards was both cutting a sex tape with his very pregnant mistress and attempting to negotiate the Attorney General spot with the Obama campaign, simultaneously. All of this with a terminally ill wife driven nearly insane with rage and jealousy, tearing up the campaign from the inside on a daily basis. Fun stuff.

Millworker father; son of a millworker, below.

But count all of this as prelude: Edwards now looks likely to draw an indictment for encouraging wealthy donors to fund Rielle Hunter’s lavish lifestyle while hiding from the press, in the campaign’s last, dark days. Some of the details of that arrangement are choice, by the way. They show that in the Two Americas, some folks continue to have enough money to pour large gobs of it down the drain, every single day, and then rinse out the sink with more money, without ever missing it.

Case in point: “Reclusive heiress” Bunny Mellon, whom Edwards seems somehow to have charmed out of millions of dollars over the years, and who was the source for about $700,000 of the money used to sequester Hunter. Granted, Bunny is now 100, and in the process of being taped by authorities in the likely event of her death before trial. So maybe she gets a pass, because it’s likely she had no idea what she was funding or what this nice boy from Carolina meant when he talked so earnestly about needing “dollars.”

Still, the concentration of wealth is astounding, and a little sick-making. Especially as the checks were accompanied by little notes, with upbeat messages like “to save the nation.”

Son of a mill worker.