No politician has been as disappointing to me as John Edwards. I loved the guy. I wanted his story to be my story.
No politician has been as disappointing to me as John Edwards.
I loved the guy. I wanted his story to be my story.
Edwards is the son of a hard-working couple. His father worked in a textile mill. His mother finished antiques at a roadside store.
He wasn’t born into, married into or fell into piles of cash.
He worked hard as the first person in his family to go to college. When he got his law degree, success wasn’t immediate. But when he got his shot he took it.
He became known for his prowess as a trial attorney and began working on major medical malpractice suits where he made a name for himself as someone who helped victims, but also was able to convince a jury to award huge sums of money to his clients.
He spun that success into a career in politics where he went on to defeat an incumbent senator in North Carolina and earned the vice presidential nomination when John Kerry took on George W. Bush in 2004.
Edwards’ story reached its climax during his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, that he ginned up the crowd with his “Two Americas” theme.
Two Americas rang true with me.
The privileged have better health care and educational opportunities.
The privileged get elected because they have money to win races and then spend their time in power making sure that only other people of privilege can join them in ruling the country.
Tax laws, the legal system and most corporate laws are all darkened by shadows of the wealthy and powerful protecting their own against the common working people of this country.
Our tax code is full of legal loopholes to protect the wealthy. Laws like “Right to Work” and other anti-union, anti-workers’ right bills clutter the statutes in almost every state in the nation.
There may not be two Americas, but there are definitely two American experiences.
The problem was that Edwards had already moved from America No. 1, where hard work is valued and rewarded, to America No. 2, where corners are cut, vows are broken and rules are disregarded.
The standard bearer for the working class was spending the average worker’s wages for a week to cut his luxurious hair.
Unfortunately, his actions made his words ring hollow.
As his political career continued, he began using campaign funds to cover up affairs and extra-marital children while his wife battled through the final stages of cancer and died.
Luckily for Edwards, conspiracy is one of the few crimes where ignorance is still a defense. Claiming he did not know that using those funds was illegal at the time he did so, Edwards was able to confuse enough jurors to escape conviction last week.
Page 2 of 2 - “I want to say just a word about is responsibility, and this is about me,” Edwards said in his best attempt to spin this hung jury into a victory. “I do not believe that I did anything illegal or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong.”
He had prefaced those remarks by touting how proud he was to live in a country that has the kind of system America does. He should be proud. He is part of the second America where if you have enough money you can get away with almost anything because you can afford attorneys who have enough resources to create a smoke screen to confuse at least three or four jurors and allow you to walk free from something that would result in a life sentence for those in the first America.
Edwards concluded his remarks by saying he didn’t believe God was finished with him yet.
“I really believe he thinks there's still some good things I can do. Whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what I'm hopeful about is all those kids that I've seen – you know, in the poorest parts of this country and in some of the poorest places in the world – that I can help them in whatever way I'm still capable of helping them,” he said. “I want to dedicate my life to being the best dad I can be and to helping those kids who I think deserve help and whom I hope I can help.”
I hope he means that.
I hope they aren’t just more words that sound like a song coming out but fall flat when it comes time to back them up.
No one had more potential than John Edwards. Much of that has been spent fighting personal demons.
Now he has potential again. This time it will be to tell a story of real redemption. But the pen to write that story is heavy and the ink flows slowly.
I hope he finds it within himself to finish the work ahead of him.
Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.