On this Valentine's Day, she warrants at least a card

February 14, 2010|By Jean Marbella Jean.MARBELLA @baltsun.com

Elizabeth Edwards supposedly has threatened to sue, not her lout of a husband, but his former aide for enabling the affair that led to the end of her marriage. She'll have to get in line, though, since the other woman, Rielle Hunter, has already sued the ex-aide, to get back a sex tape she had made with Mr. Wonderful, John Edwards.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Like some sort of perverse antidote to all the hearts and flowers and candy and kisses of this time of year, the Edwards saga continues, a lawsuit here, another book there. But perhaps the most perverse part of the whole sorry mess is that, somehow, it's often Elizabeth Edwards who comes out smelling not quite rosy.

Imagine, you are deathly ill, your husband cheats on you, spectacularly, and only admits incrementally to the affair and the baby that resulted from it - and you're the one depicted in books and among pundits as a nasty shrew.

Maybe it's the need to simplify the narrative, or to upend a previous one - Elizabeth Edwards earlier had been beatified for her tough and courageous battle against breast cancer, so now she has to be taken down for not living up to the sainthood that was thrust upon her.

The latest bad-Elizabeth portrait comes from Andrew Young, John Edwards' former aide, who has been all over the media promoting his recently published tell-all book, "The Politician" - in between his court appearances dealing with Hunter's lawsuit, that is. But his painting of Elizabeth Edwards as a screaming meanie is no big reveal - a similar picture already emerged from "Game Change," the gossipy, behind-the-scenes book about the 2008 presidential campaign by political reporters John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.

The scenes in "Game Change" from the Edwards marriage are simply harrowing. While the authors have come under fire in some quarters for their sourcing, or lack thereof, the book's depiction of the Edwards triangle seems at least to have the whiff of believability: There's John, increasingly megalomaniacal and ripe for the siren call of the dippy, New Age-y Hunter - and her adoring camera. Then there's Elizabeth, increasingly despairing, at one point ripping her blouse open during a fight to literally throw her illness in John's face.

At least according to "Game Change," even before the discovery of her husband's affair, Elizabeth Edwards was something of a harridan who yelled at staff members and was rudely dismissive of her husband. Who knows, maybe she was. Or maybe those memories of the old Elizabeth are colored by the current one, who understandably might have come unhinged by either the return of what is now terminal cancer, her husband's betrayal, the never-ending tawdry details that keep emerging about it or - do you think? - all of the above.

Complicating the matter has been Elizabeth Edwards' own decisions, to encourage her husband to run for president even after she learned of his affair and then to write a book that addressed it and appear on high-profile shows like "Oprah" and "Today." In other words, she put herself in the spotlight, and it didn't necessarily shine so kindly on her.

On those shows last spring, she dismissed Hunter as practically a stalker who was trying to bask in Edwards' glow, thereby placing the blame on the wrong person, and she did herself no favors calling called Hunter's baby "it." But at the time, John Edwards was still denying fatherhood, a lie that his wife rather sadly clung to as long as she could. Since then, she has dumped him and they are legally separated, apparently headed for a divorce.

Then this past week, Young said Elizabeth Edwards threatened to sue him, North Carolina being one of seven states that allows a lawsuit against a third party for "alienation of affection" and causing the end of a marriage. More commonly, it's the other woman, or man, who is sued. But in this case, Young says he's been threatened by Elizabeth for helping John Edwards carry on the affair and is facing a demand to stop talking about her marriage.

Another crazy act on the part of crazy Elizabeth? Sorry, but I can't fault how she's dealing with the ugly hand that she's been dealt - by fate and human failings, even if some of those are her own.

So go ahead, Elizabeth, scorch the earth if you must. You don't have to go gentle into the good night.

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