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Edwards admits to having an affair

The United States has this obsession a certain amount of moral purity among its politicians. They can solicit all sorts of funds from lobbyists who push for all sorts of things (including from the tobacco lobby, for people who want to spend over $200 million to build a bridge for 50 people, and other pork barrel projects that take away money from poor people who really need money), but the very admission of any sexual impropriety means that the politician could be looking at a career ending. In the past, this has reduced the number of people who are eligible to apply for public office (in case you forget, Gary Hart (wikipedia) had to drop out of the 1988 Presidential poll after his affair with Donna Rice was revealed).
And now Edwards has done it. In public a happily married man and one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination for this year’s Presidential poll (until he withdrew after coming in third), it is now revealed that he had an affair in 2006 with 42-year-old Rielle Hunter, who was hired to make documentary videos for his campaign. This is an absolute no-no in American politics, and could destroy his career (he was after all, a Vice-Presidential candidate). And the reasons he gave were to the effect that he felt his career had given him such a high, such an ego that he felt that he could do anything:

John Edwards, who campaigned throughout the 2008 Democratic primaries alongside his family — and made his marriage a central part of his overall message — was dealt a political blow Friday after admitting to having an extramarital affair. He denied, however, being the father of the woman’s child, as tabloid reports have alleged.
The former North Carolina senator, who was often mentioned as a possible candidate for Sen. Barack Obama’s vice presidential pick, does not believe his admission will have a long-lasting impact on his career.
Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Paul Begala said Edwards’ affair will result in a “larger loss of faith in institutions.” “But keep in mind, you know, John Edwards did not order that anyone be tortured. He did not violate the Geneva Convention. He did not forge a document to lead us into a war. He cheated on his wife,” he said.

This is part of the truth. There is a version of the truth that implies that having an affair or some other ‘perversion’ is something that shows that you cannot be relied on. There is also another version of the truth in which whatever you do in your personal life is not relevant to your abilities to run the country. In the US, it is the first one. In many other countries, it is the second version of the truth that counts (for example, the newly elected President of France divorced his wife and married a much younger model).
The people most happy at this development would be the senior leaders of the Democratic Party. A nightmare for them would have been if Edwards had indeed won the Presidential nomination, and then this news would have come. Imagine delivering the Presidential election and control of Congress to the Republicans.

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