Anna, Elizabeth, Hillary & Monica (No, Not That One)

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 27, 2007; 7:40 AM

Anna Nicole was back in the news yesterday with the official finding that she died from an accidental overdose, and you could almost hear the groaning from television producers that there wasn't a more controversial outcome.

The press conference by the thick-accented medical examiner -- who almost seemed from central casting -- could not be covered by the cable networks, of course, without a cascade of split-screen pictures of the onetime stripper shaking her booty for the cameras. If you banned that footage, I believe the coverage would drop by 80 percent.

Anyway, that enables me to move right along to the Elizabeth Edwards saga, which actually matters and has generated more interest among ordinary folks than anything else that has happened in this presidential campaign. Who among us hasn't been touched by cancer in some form? Who hasn't grappled with the struggle between professional demands and family responsibilities? Even people who have little interest in politics are buzzing about this.

Time's Jay Carney, who has said he could not, as the father of young children, do what the Edwardses are doing, stays on the case:

"John and Elizabeth Edwards did very well on 60 Minutes. Katie Couric asked all the tough questions. . . . John was particularly strong, and right, when he said of those who disagree with or aren't sure about their decision to stay in the race: 'All of those judgments and questions are entirely legitimate.' Equally impressive was his answer to the (wrongheaded) accusation that he and Elizabeth were exploiting her cancer for political gain: 'Do not vote for me because Elizabeth has cancer. . . . This election is too important. . . . Do not vote for us because you feel some sympathy or compassion for us.'

"Elizabeth made a powerful point when she explained why she believed the campaign should go on. 'Either you push forward with the things you were doing yesterday,' she said, 'or you start dying.' . . .

"I am no doubt inviting more criticism for having the gall to feel uncomfortable with the Edwards' decision, and for suggesting that other Americans might also feel that way. It must be obvious by now that others do, in fact, have similar doubts -- especially about the issue of whether a father of two young children whose wife may be seriously ill, and may even die, might be too distracted to be effective as president. Those doubts are natural and legitimate, as John Edwards acknowledged. It's certainly not partisan, and it has nothing to do with being part of the MSM."

Ann Althouse, on the other hand, didn't like the way the interview was conducted:

"Couric asks Edwards a tough question about cancer. And then another and another and another. Oh, why not fill the entire space you have to fill with the only question you've got? Surely, the fact that it's an insensitive and awkward question won't make it any worse than all those other times you've repeated the question. A reporter's got to get to the truth, you know. And really, aren't you a power-mad lout, Mr. Edwards?"

Hogan's Alley defends the candidate's wife:

"The determination to continue with her and her family's life at full bore is the sanest and healthiest thing Elizabeth Edwards could do in the face of a cancer diagnosis that is not promising of a long life. It is highly unlikely that I would ever vote for her husband, but I admire enormously the couple's intent to live the life they have chosen for whatever time remains to them. It must be said that each of us must make our own adaptations to such terrible news. No one is entitled to criticize anyone's response, even if they choose to withdraw into the cocoon of family and friends. . . .

"Which brings us to the way this story is being covered on the TV networks. Each iteration of the story on the major networks and the cable news channels includes the statement that the Edwards are being criticized for their decision. Where are these critics? Where are their quoted criticisms? They are never provided."


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