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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Excuse Me

by digby

...but just who the hell does Joan Vennochi think she is?

But as a political observer, I also find it hard to read "Saving Graces" without noticing the frenetic new life she and her husband invented after their son's death.

John Edwards ran for the US Senate, then for president, and then for vice president as John Kerry's running mate in 2004.

Elizabeth Edwards had two more children, a daughter and son, who are now 8 and 6. She took on the daunting task of new motherhood in her 50s; they also have a daughter, Cate, 24.

Elizabeth Edwards also immersed herself in every aspect of her husband's political campaigns, all the time thinking how much Wade would have relished the adventure. The Edwardses are building an extravagant 28,200-square-foot dream house, west of Chapel Hill, N.C.

This is not a judgment on the way this family chose to deal with their loss. Still, the memoir reveals a desperate effort, especially on Elizabeth Edwards's part, to fill her life with anything -- speeches, travel, lofty goals for America -- that will fill the void left by her son's death. She never will; no mother could. But she will keep on running until someone makes her slow down.

That is where John Edwards could step in, or should. But, for whatever the reason -- her strong will, his strong ambition -- the two keep racing forward.

This is one of the characteristics I viscerally loathe in certain members the human species -- sanctimonious, busy-body, judgmentalism coming from people who have neither the insight, the perspective or the sensitivity to render any kind of opinion about other people's personal lives and marriages. And yet they do it, with great confidence in their own ability to see inside other people's most personal relationships.

In this case a smug, hostile columnist has written an uninformed and hurtful psychological profile of John and Elizabeth Edwards personalities, allegedly based upon the book "Saving Graces" --- which I read and saw in a completely different light. I thought it illustrated an admirable courage and willingness to embrace life after tragedy. (Which just goes to show you that the "lessons" in such a book are in the eye of the beholder, doesn't it?) This awful woman read it and came away believing there is something neurotic and troubled in Mrs Edwards' behavior and has decided to throw that out into the public discourse via her syndicated column in a major newspaper as if her judgment about their marriage and psychological makeup is useful for something other than juicy fodder for a boozy lunch at Chez Bitchée.

Now, I'm sure she will immediately tell us all that we should care about her shallow "diagnosis" because it illuminates some aspect of the Edwards' characters. That's always the first refuge of the scandalmonger caught in flagrante and trying to spin her way out of being seen as a voyeur. But nobody can know what really goes on inside somebody else's marriage. Even counsellors and psychologists who spend huge amounts of time delving into it with the partners have a hard time correctly diagnosing the problems. Marriage is the most complicated relationship in human experience and to think you can correctly analyze one from afar is a convenient delusion. Let's face it, analyzing other people's realtionships inevitably reveals more about you than them.

Back when the Clinton marriage was under the microscope for years on end, we were told by every tattler with a microphone that it was terribly important that we know all the dirty details of their lives because it allowed us to assess the president's ability to do his job. That was nonsense. Our current president has what appears to be a very stable, traditional marriage (which everyone treated as if it meant they'd been ordained by god himself) and it said absolutely nothing about his ability to run this country. The awful results of using that political "metric" are clear for all of us to see.

I love to gossip as much as the next person. It's part of being human to want to feel superior to others and experience all kinds of delicious schaudenfreude. But when it comes to politics and policy this gossipy "character" nonsense is a destructive distraction that has become a useless proxy for figuring out what citizens want their government to do and whether they think certain people are capable of doing it. Dissecting politicians' marriages will not get them there and it's time for the chattering classes to get off their well-fed behinds and start writing interesting stories that might actually educate and inform the citizens of this country. People can get plenty of nasty gossip elsewhere to fulfill their need to feel superior and virtuous. National political opinion columns should have a slightly higher calling.

*And can I just say how dreadfully inappropriate and cruel it is for Venocchi to write this column just days after Edwards announced she is fighting for her life with stage four cancer? What possibly made her think this was necessary?