John Edwards, while publicly confessing last Friday an affair he had insistently and repeatedly denied, at the same time announced this should put an end to all discussion of the matter. Yet his confession has revealed any number of holes. Despite claiming the affair was due to his self-regard and arrogance, traits which he has presumably addressed, his behavior indicates his narcissism has crescendoed to psychotic dimensions. How scary is this about the people who would be our president?

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, August 10, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Edwards' confession shows us just how nutty he is

Edwards primpingThe National Enquirer reported last December on an affair then Presidential candidate John Edwards had had with campaign cinematographer Rielle Hunter. Edwards immediately and repeatedly labeled the story a lie, and for the last eight months no other major media outlet had picked up the story. But on July 21st, the Enquirer reported catching Edwards visiting Hunter and her baby daughter at a Los Angeles hotel, leaving after 2AM in the morning.

Once again, Edwards denounced the story, but it set into motion the events culminating in Edwards' public confession last Friday on ABC's "Nightline." While he admitted having an affair with Hunter, Edwards minimized it as short-lived, labeled it a liaison, and definitively rejected claims he was the father of Hunter's baby. At the same time his wife Elizabeth posted at her blog that she forgave her husband and requested privacy for their family.

Edwards' TV performance will go down in history. It is hard to find a way to parody it. He confessed to "a narcissism that leads you to believe you can do whatever you want, you're invincible, and there will be no consequences." We knew that. But, more incredible, Edwards was demonstrating the same narcissistic sense of invincibility in his supposed confession!

Edwards told Nightline that his purpose in meeting with Hunter was to try to keep her from revealing the affair. But this does not hold water on a number of grounds. While Edwards told Nightline he would gladly take a DNA test, Hunter said on Saturday she would not participate in testing. The hotel meeting obviously required a good deal of planning, and Hunter was accompanied by a friend and took two rooms so she could meet privately with Edwards after allowing him contact with the baby, according to the Enquirer. What was that about?

Hunter's entire living situation is - and remains - shrouded in mystery. She originally moved from New York to North Carolina, near Edwards' headquarters, through 2007 (Edwards claimed the brief affair ended in 2006). She has since moved to California, and is reportedly in close contact with long-time Edwards friend and associate Andrew Young and his family, who likewise moved to California. This is stunning news, since Young confessed to being the baby's father, although no father is listed on the North Carolina birth certificate.

Edwards' entire conceit in imagining that he could run for president while keeping the affair secret - a secret he would presumably have maintained if elected President (and if his wife dies of cancer) - represents a breathtaking self-centeredness. But it seems entirely possible he has made this very belated announcement of the affair as part of an effort to cover-up his continuing involvement with Hunter. Edwards claims, for instance, to have no idea about how Hunter supports herself, is living in California, and any connection she has with Young! The Enquirer meanwhile reports Edwards has had several assignations with Hunter in California.

If there is any truth to these allegations (and both the Enquirer and ABC are promising to reveal more about the situation), Edwards telling the public as much as he must while hiding other information - and claiming to be entirely forthcoming - represents a greater level of arrogance, self-reference, and psychotic distortion of reality than has ever been displayed by the many political figures who have gone down in flames giving expression to their sexual urges as the just deserts for their political prowess, from Gary Hart, to Bill Clinton, to Elliot Spitzer.

And what does this say of the men (or is that people) who would be our president?

Note (April 30, 2009):

It turns out that Edwards uses that technique (of lying on top of his lies) with those nearest and dearest to him. Elizabeth Edwards wrote a memoir in which she revealed that, as well as becoming ill on learning of her hubbby's affair, she urgd him to drop out of the race to spare their children (a request which he of course rode all over). But "confessing" to his wife, Edwards still wasn't forthcoming, lying to her in the same way he did to the American public by telling her that "it only happened once." Elizabeth wrote that Edwards "left most of the truth out." That's called lying, Elizabeth, in case you want to teach your children. Elizabeth nonetheless remains deeply grateful to and in love with her husband as she dies of cancer, she reveals.