Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for June 2, 2012
The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we hold of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us.
No matter how I try, it just keeps returning to the ridiculous. With all those ruined lives, the whole, sad story should firmly remain in the realm of tragedy. But like one of those Shmoo boppy toys, it keeps whipping back into farce.
He was the golden boy; a wealthy, highly successful litigator, a poor boy from one America who now lived in the other America, a presidential candidate who gave a whole gaggle of Democratic hopefuls a run for their money. John Edwards had it all.
And lost it all. It’s a tale that should cause feelings of sad empathy, perhaps a moment of smug self-righteousness. But for me it all just keeps turning from a sad-faced tsk-tsk moment back into snort-through-the-nose laughter.
I think it’s just the sheer wretched excess of it all. This wasn’t a story of one man’s ego and libido getting the better of him in a moment of weakness. This was epic!-- a traveling road-show that included a cast of players larger than “Cats” that turned the action into a Max Sennett comedy, all zippy rattle-trap cars whizzing up and down and back and forth while a speeding train crashes into a water tower.
And somewhere along its sorry way, the tale passed the point of mini-gravitas and tipped into a clown car jammed full of fools, each more embarrassing than the other.
I mean . . . Rielle? the hideous high-maintenance mistress, one of those Hollywood wannabes who was originally hired to make a series of “webisodes” of Edward’s campaign. Between making stump speeches, shaking endless hands, and kissing babies, the two of them fell into bed. The expensive video log Ms. Hunter made turned out to be so poorly shot it was unusable (Goodbye Hollywood), but the baby the two of them made in that hotel room stuck around (Hello Pampers).
And had to be hidden from the ferociously ambitious and now-suspicious wife.
Who was suffering from cancer. Did I forget to mention that part?
Enter Andrew Young, the loyal lickspittle willing to fall on his sword by volunteering to claim that the child was his, which prompts a few moments of delight picturing how Mr. Young explained that baby’s existence to his own wife. Cue the pie in the face.
And best of all, this hugger-mugger traveling hide-the-baby Klown Karnival was financed by a loopy heiress, the fabulously wealthy “Bunny” Mellon, and a couple of Edward’s rich lawyer pals, all of whom thought nothing of dropping over a million smackaroonies just to keep this ridiculous production on the road.
And so it shambled on, wheels creaking, calliope booming, the dying wife raging, the whining mistress demanding shopping trips to Los Angeles, the golden coins pouring out of the purses and pockets of the Sugar Daddies and Sugar Mommy Mellon, while the baby-hiding aide stopped feeling the love and started sulking and plotting his own cover-his-ass revenge.
And above it all, the master juggler floated, the smiling, golden-haired Edwards. Campaigning for President, then, when that wasn’t working, maneuvering to cut a deal to become the Veep. No? Well how’s about giving me some kind of high-powered State Dept. office? Astonishing. Brazen. Shameless. Deluded. Oblivious.
Until the wheels came off.
And the wife died, and Edwards sought absolution from the obligatory TV confession – My bad. My bad. My maxima culpa bad -- followed by a trial for political corruption (all that nice Mellon money), where even more grisly, cringe-worthy details spilled out. And the poor jurors had to struggle with confusing, conflicting election laws filled to the Swiss-cheese brim with deliberately written convenient, wink-nudge loopholes.
All of which should elicit sympathy, perhaps some sorrow. A long face? I mean, how much more can one man be humiliated?
But there it is. That stubborn snicker.
In classic literature, the downfall of the tragic hero should inspire fear and pity. But this wasn’t tragedy, it was comeuppance. Somewhere along the way this sorry saga passed melodrama and fell onto the banana peel of not guilty on one charge and a mistrial on the other five.
That the DOJ wasted a dump-truck load of tax dollars on a political corruption case in the era of Citizens United and all our now-legal corrupt and corrupting Super PAC spending, well, that’s the biggest laugh of all.
Cue the Whoopee Cushion.