I’ve been thinking about John Edwards some lately, because in a lot of ways, he was ahead of the curve on the issues with which Bernie Sanders has helped to mainstream. When Edwards ran for President in 2004, he was a freshman Senator from North Carolina who wasn’t all that knowledgeable on most issues, but he spoke eloquently, passionately, and believably about the “Two Americas.” John Edwards was highlighting the increasing wealth gap — between rich America and poor America — even before Occupy Wall Street. Edwards’ main issue — in fact, the only identifiable one — was his bid to eradicate poverty in the United States.
I jumped on his bandwagon briefly, so caught up in his rhetoric, because he was the only candidate who really spoke to that particular issue, one that meant a lot to me personally. Unfortunately, there was always something a little disingenuous about Edwards. He was too slickly political. He looked and sounded like a politician out of central casting.
Edwards couldn’t get past that, but when John Kerry needed a running mate in 2004, he selected Edwards to give the ticket some youth and charm, and to boost his prospects in the South.
Edwards was an absolute failure as a Vice Presidential candidate, however. Going up against the more experienced, knowledgeable (and evil) Dick Cheney made Edwards look like a grade-school kid trying to match wits with his teacher. Kerry, in fact, later admitted that he regretted the choice of Edwards and the two had a falling out.
Edwards did take another stab at the Presidency in 2008, and he fared well in Iowa (in fact, he edged out Hillary for second place behind Obama), but Obama was an even more eloquent speaker, more charming, equally as good looking, and more authentic. Edwards didn’t stand a chance. He didn’t make it to February.
Then, the sh*t hit the fan. Rumors that John Edwards had been having an affair with campaign worker Rielle Hunter had been floating around for years (thanks to the National Enquirer), but they began to pick up steam in 2008. Six months after he withdrew from the race, Edwards admitted to having an affair with Hunter — while his wife was dying of cancer — but denied fathering her love child. Two years later, however, Edwards did admit to being the father of Hunter’s child. In fact, Edwards was later investigated for using campaign money to cover up the affair. Edwards had arranged a deal with one of his staff members, Andrew Young, so that Young would claim paternity for the child (that arrangement nearly led to a movie penned by Aaron Sorkin).
Edwards was eventually indicted and tried for illegal use of campaign funds and five other charges. He was found not guilty on the illegal use of campaign funds charge, and a mistrial was declared on the remaining counts. The feds eventually dropped the charges.
Interestingly, just last month, a reporter for the Philly Metro spotted John Edwards in an airport, and described him as such:
Sitting slouched in the terminal, his once admirable movie star looks and charm were replaced with a now sunken glare and a noticeable round potbelly. His luggage wasn’t fancy, nor was his demeanor.
Edwards, who ran for President in 2008, now looked like a Chevy Chase/National Lampoon-type of dad. It was almost alarming that nobody recognized him.
(He also snatched a photo).
Elizabeth Edwards, John’s wife, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, She fought it through the affair and Edwards’ next bid for the presidency (and even ended up advising Obama on healthcare issues after John Edwards dropped out). She passed away in 2010.