John Edwards is after redemption, not a political comeback


John Edwards outside a federal courthouse as his daughter Cate Edwards and parents Wallace and Bobbie Edwards, look on after the jury's verdict in his trial on charges of campaign corruption in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, May 31, 2012. (Chuck Burton/AP)

“I don’t think God is through with me,’’ he told reporters, even after the scandal of a trial that tried to prove he’d violated campaign finance laws in the course of hiding his pregnant mistress while he was running for president.

That’s good news for his four children; if he did think God was through with him, wouldn’t that make him suicidal?

Others heard his statement as that of an incurable politician making a shameless, delusional bid for a public comeback. But I heard only the hope for the redemption he’d have to think possible to go on getting up in the morning.

Sure, some of what he said was self-serving, as when he talked about the time he spends with his children Jack and Emma Claire, “who I take care of every day, and get their breakfast ready.” Their mother Elizabeth died of breast cancer in 2010, and I hope he doesn’t think feeding them qualifies him for a commendation.

Other parts of his statement were just weird, as when he again insisted, just as he had in that disastrous, untruthful “Nightline” interview he gave in 2008, that his “sins” were his and his alone; did anyone ever suggest otherwise?

But it’s surely only human to want people to know that there’s more to him than the lies, betrayals and letdowns we’ve been hearing about for the last four years.

And he owed the daughter he’d once denied the public recognition he gave her on Thursday: “My precious Quinn,’’ he said, his voice breaking, “who I love more than any of you could ever imagine, and I am so close to, and am so, so grateful for, so grateful for Quinn.”

He also owed the elderly parents who’ve supported him all his life the indication that it hurt his pride, if not his conscience, to see them “tromp up here from Robbins, North Carolina every day to be with me” under such humiliating circumstances. He owed it to his grown daughter Cate “who loves her mother so, so much,” he said, all the gratitude in the world for sticking by him, too.

Throughout his trial, we heard abundant evidence that Edwards’s capacity for self-delusion is extraordinary. So maybe some part of him does harbor the hope that his improbable rise and spectacular fall will be followed by an equally unexpected return to grace.

But first on the former senator’s do-list has got to be the kind of quiet, private atonement that might eventually allow him to have a meal in public without being scowled or hissed at.

And in that, for the sake of his family, I wish him only the best.

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Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors the paper’s ’She the People’ blog. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.

DisclaimerThis is a non-scientific user poll. Results are not statistically valid and cannot be assumed to reflect the views of Washington Post users as a group or the general population.
Melinda Henneberger has been writing about politics and culture for the Washington Post since 2011.
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