By Susan Milligan
It takes quite an effort to make Rush Limbaugh look like a feminist.
But oh, John Edwards has done it. The failed candidate for both president and vice president had an affair with a woman who approached him on the 2008 campaign trail (even though his wife was sick with cancer), and-when he was told that the girlfriend was pregnant with their child-referred to her, according to a former aide, as a "crazy slut."
Mind you, this is not some anonymous person or activist Edwards was deriding. This was, according to court testimony by Andrew Young, a former Edwards campaign aide, the woman he had been having sex with, all the while his wife, Elizabeth, was battling cancer. It makes Limbaugh's descriptions of a Georgetown law student as being a "slut" and "prostitute" look positively polite in comparison.
Edwards, according to Young, told his aide to "take care of it," and then hatched a scheme to funnel money-illegally, prosecutors contend-to Rielle Hunter so she could care for their child. Edwards also came up with the skeezy idea of telling everyone that it was Young who was the father of the child, surmising that the press would believe a story about two staffers having an affair. And meanwhile, Hunter was traveling on the campaign trail, making it easier for Edwards to arrange liaisons with her while Elizabeth was trying to stay alive in hopes of seeing her husband win the nomination and the presidency.
Elizabeth Edwards, of course, had beaten cancer-or so the couple thought. But the disease came back with a vengeance early in Edwards's primary campaign. Did he end or even suspend his campaign, just to spend time with the woman he married and fathered children with-one of whom tragically died? No, John Edwards plodded ahead with his campaign anyway. And kept himself entertained on the road.
There were signs that Edwards has a little trouble with the truth. During one campaign stop, Edwards, in mock solemnity, recalled running into a voter who acknowledged she had not voted for him. Why? Edwards asked. Because you never asked for my vote, Edwards said piously, indicating that he was doing so then.
It's a great story, and it was much better when former House Speaker Tip O'Neill told it many years earlier. Either the two men had remarkably similar experiences with voters, or Edwards was putting himself at the center of a story that wasn't really about him. Of course, he put himself at the center when his wife's cancer returned. And he put himself at the center when his girlfriend got pregnant with their child (which raises another question in the area of self-centeredness: Has the man never heard of wearing a condom?)
"Crazy slut." Indeed.