Does John Edwards have a future in politics?
Given the fact that other acknowledged sinners - Bill Clinton, John McCain and Newt Gingrich come readily to mind – have reclaimed public respectability after treating their wives like disposable wipes, this is not an idle question.
The comeback trail is well-blazed. A few self-scourging appearances on 60 Minutes, Ellen, or The View. Some choreographed photo ops in a tool belt and blue denim work shirt, repairing houses for the poor. The well-publicized embrace of a humanitarian cause, preferably one that helps
The course is there. But Edwards should choose a different path. Having confessed his sins, he should return to the law, and do his penance in the courtroom.
If he is any kind of human being, Edwards has a lot of work ahead of him: helping his dying wife cope with his betrayal, repairing his relationships with his children, and apologizing to the Democrats he recruited to help make him president.
Just think of where the Democratic Party would be today, had Edwards won the nomination, and then been exposed as an adulterer a month before the convention. We, all of us, are sinners. But Democrats should make it clear to Edwards, and he should accept the fact, that such treachery is a political career killer.
Instead, Edwards should return to the law, where he excelled as a plaintiff’s attorney before running for the Senate in
Innocents accused. The forgotten residents of
In doing so, Edwards would follow the path of the greatest of American defense attorneys, Clarence Darrow.
In 1911, Darrow left
Instead, Darrow crawled back to
“He is scared,” the muckraker Lincoln Steffens wrote of his friend Darrow. “The cynic is humbled; the man that laughed sees and is frightened, not at prison bars, but at his own soul.”
Darrow started over in
And then, nearing 70, in what may be his greatest triumph, Darrow won liberty for a group of young black men and women who, while defending the home Dr. Ossian Sweet, an African-American physician who had moved into a white neighborhood in Detroit, killed a member of a menacing, rock-throwing white mob.
Edwards is 55, the very age at which Darrow was put on trial for bribing the McNamara jury. Humiliated, bowed and desperate, Darrow did not know that his greatest days lay before him. Let that someday be said of John Edwards.