Over at the lefty Huffington Post, John Edwards' confession of being a cheat has, interestingly, provoked fury among some of the gal pundits. They're mercilessly trashing the pretty boy populist -- spitting a toxic venom that even their like-minded male counterparts cannot match. Some, incredibly, are even digging their nails into Edwards' wife Elizabeth (who is battling cancer) for having aided and abetted her husband's public lies.
What's going on?
Could these ladies be writing with some deeper understanding of the issues at play, perhaps having suffered, like so many American women, at the hands of philandering boyfriends or spouses? According to one survey, 50 to 60 percent of married men have broken their marriage vows -- compared to 45 to 50 percent of women. Perhaps the columnists are subconsciously tapping into their outrage over the humiliation that their sister, Hillary, suffered in the White House.
However, perhaps their outrage underscores something really profound: Yes, America is in the midst of a culture war -- but marital infidelity, it seems, is definitely not an issue that any longer divides many Republican and Democratic women -- if it ever did. Indeed, none of the Edwards-hating Huffington Post lefties reveals a trace of the sophisticated "European attitude" about cheating husbands: the belief that flawed marriages with wandering men are not a big deal, even with all the lies (both public and private) that usually go along with keeping mistresses and fathering "love" children.
"What a C.R.E.E.P" declares columnist Nancy Snow, sniffing that the Edwards scandal distracted her from writing about the Olympics. "Now the 300 million dollar extravaganza in Beijing will have to wait as I contemplate the rise and fall of the 400 dollar haircut man." "Infidelity affects the daily rhythm of life," columnist Jill Brooke thoughtfully observed, before letting loose some choice words: "It's easy for many women to say, 'I'd dump the bastard,' until it actually happens to them."
"Imagine being Elizabeth Edwards," she wrote. "Not only is she battling terminal cancer, but she now must muster the strength to deal with the news that her husband had an affair with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter."
And then there's Bonnie Fuller, whose column is perhaps the most perceptive of the lot:
It's easy to understand why John Edwards first felt he was entitled to cheat on his wife and family, and then second, thought he could keep it secret from the American public. He is a self-admitted "narcissist", and narcissists believe they are entitled to whatever they want, whenever they want it. As psychologist Cooper Lawrence told me, "they always think some other poor schnook will get caught, not them."
On the other hand, there's Jane Smiley: Parting company with her sister columnists, her column argues that the that the sex scandal is much ado about nothing. After all, there are things "a lot worse than adultery," such as "denying people health care, swindling the taxpayer, starting an unnecessary war by forging documents and lying, and stealing the oil belonging to other nations..."
Yet Smiley in her way reveals some feminine outrage, too, observing that she'd "never thought adultery was a big deal in the abstract, because, as we all know, I am a liberal..." Well, Ms. Smiley, if adultery is not a big deal in the "abstract," what might it be like if it really did happen to you? And interestingly, Smiley's not-to-worry conclusion is out of sync with her column's title: "Hiding the Scumbag."
Regarding Edwards' wife, Fuller offers these trenchant observations:
The bigger question is "why did Elizabeth Edwards drink her husband's Kool-Aid? How could she have possibly believed that her husbands [sic] affair would remain a private matter when he was running for President of the United States? Hello, the National Enquirer had already broken the story last fall. Why in fact, did she knowingly encourage her spouse to even enter the campaign when she had been fully informed about the affair for over a year? And she helped support and propagate John Edwards' image as a devoted husband and family man.
No, Elizabeth Edwards had to be in some extraordinary form of denial and that's why she became her husband's "ambition enabler," when she supported his recent run for the presidency. My belief is that after almost thirty years of marriage she too had become so invested in his political ambitions, his cause, that she couldn't give up either, even after he cheated and she knew there was a chance his affair could be reported in the mainstream press.
His success, now defined her success, so she was willing to go along with the fraud that that their marriage was fine," believes psychologist Victoria Zdrok, currently working on a book titled," Dr. Z on Straying."
Her terminal illness may actually have also played a role in her decision to publicly stand by her man and his presidential ambitions, according to Zdrok. "When we seek death, we often seek to achieve a symbolic immortality. And becoming a presidential wife could have been that for her.
In any case, Elizabeth Edwards was a victim when her husband cheated. She did nothing to deserve that and as a wife she had every right and many reasons to forgive the jerk. But the decision to stand behind him and publicly broadcast his staunch family values image was her own doing. As courageous and admirable as she has been in dealing with her cancer, she is now the latest member of the Publicly Humiliated Wives Club, and she has no right to complain about the public's interest in knowing exactly what has happened. She helped get herself in this situation."
The title of Fuller's column: "Elizabeth Edwards Drank Her Husband's Kool-Aid And Became his 'Ambition Enabler.'"
As for Arianna Huffington, she endeavors to look at the big picture:
I've long pushed for a giant border fence separating public life and private lives. But the issue here wasn't Edwards' infidelity, it was his lying directly to the American people. The last thing we need is a sexual purity test for our politicians, but we desperately need political leaders whose word we can trust.
Well, it's interesting that telling the truth, in this context, is now so important for Huffington, one of the left's de facto spokespersons. This criterion, after all, was not one that most Democrats (including women in the party) used to judge Bill Clinton when his cheating scandal broke; and nor was it a criteria Democrats applied to Clinton when he was running for office and was known, at the time, to be a serial philander, and lier, in respect to his womanizing in Arkansas.
Could it possibly be that Huffington, a native of Greece who lived for years in Europe, has shed some of her sophisticated views about such things, too?
All in all, it will be interesting to see if the gal pundits on the conservative side of the fence muster as much venom over Edwards martial infidelity as the lefties at the Huffington Post.