NPR Plugs Elizabeth Edwards Book, But Suggests Some Think She 'Perpetrated a Fraud'

May 10th, 2009 11:16 PM

In addition to a sympathy tour on Oprah Winfrey’s show, Elizabeth Edwards was interviewed by National Public Radio on Thursday. But All Things Considered co-anchor Michele Norris deserves credit for channeling some of the resentment of voters – both Edwards voters and others – who feel defrauded not just by John, but by Elizabeth, who consented to completely fraudulent media stories celebrating her wedded bliss. Deep into the interview, Norris asked the toughie:

NORRIS: Now, I don't have to tell you this, but you know that some people feel misled by your husband but also by you. You knew about the affair, but you chose to actively campaign for your husband and to present him as a man of character and to present yourselves as the people involved in an ideal marriage. And people are angry because they feel like you've perpetrated a fraud. People are angry because they feel that his campaign had an impact on the election. Is the anger directed at you justified?

Ms. EDWARDS: It's really hard for me, Michele, I have to tell you. Now for one thing, what I knew was -- you know, I knew of a single incident. I still had a personal struggle, but I didn't feel that it changed him substantially. And you know, no marriage is perfect, but we still had, you know, so many shared aspirations, not just for ourselves or our family but for the country, you know, that - though I was still trying to deal with it, it wasn't, when I was on the campaign trail, something I thought about very much.

The obvious question here, if Norris had wanted to get even tougher, is why should the public believe the currently offered version of Edwards events, considering the last version was wrong? When someone lied the first time, is their second version of events to be trusted? Couldn’t the book’s headline be "This Time I’m Not Lying"? Certainly, she’s a little unclear as to how much she could trust her own husband’s changing accounts. It also became clear that Mrs. Edwards put up that fraudulent front for political reasons – he may have cheated on her, but she felt he still had the best political plans:

NORRIS: You say in the book, without my knowing, a woman who spotted my husband one afternoon in the restaurant bar of the hotel in which he was staying, hung around outside the hotel for a couple of hours until he returned from a dinner and introduced herself by saying, you are so hot.

Ms. EDWARDS: You do that well, Michele.

NORRIS: Well, it was hard to read it. Frankly, it was hard to read it to you.

Ms. EDWARDS: Yeah.

NORRIS: How do you know that that's what went down? How do you know that that's what she said?

Ms. EDWARDS: You know, John started out by not telling me the whole story. He told me a very abbreviated story, which allowed me to - even though it was an enormous struggle, still allowed me to move through my life, allowed me to go through the campaign. And only, I don't know, a year and three months, a year and six months later did he tell me the full story, and that included, you know, how this actually happened.

NORRIS: Now in the book you say that you first learned of your husband's infidelity in December of 2006, at the end of the month, right after Christmas. It was right after he had returned from his tour announcing his presidency.

Ms. EDWARDS: Yeah, he'd done a tour announcing his presidency, and he was going to end up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where we live, and it was after that that he told me.

NORRIS: You asked him not to run, but he did. And I'm wondering if that was his decision. Were you overruled? Did the two of you sit down and decide together to pursue a shared dream? Help me understand the thinking behind the decision to push ahead.

Ms. EDWARDS: Well he said, and I'll have to admit this was right, you know, if he pulled out right after he had gotten in, there would be a lot of questions. And that he also said that, you know, if this single incident looks like it's going to be a problem, we'll know that. That rationale seemed reasonable to me, but I still, you know, I was hesitant.

I was hesitant about how I was supposed to go out and talk about him. But honestly, the policies he talked about were, you know, in my view, so far superior to what other people were talking about. The public person, the person who wanted to serve, was really on the right track about our responsibilities to one another. He just failed in his responsibilities to me and, frankly, you know, though it didn't turn out that way, it could have been to those people who had supported him, as well. He didn't get the nomination but not because of any of the things that he had done privately.

The fraud question came right after this part of the interview. Norris softened the toughness of the fraud question by sounding like she was issuing a dust-cover blurb for the book as she wrapped up:

NORRIS: You could say that this is a book for the times. It could be easily be said Elizabeth Edwards has written the book on resilience, and in fact you did. That's the title of your book. What is your definition of resilience, in just a few words?

Ms. EDWARDS: I talk about my father's dealing with his life after he had a stroke. I think that resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it's less good than the one you had, the reality that you liked before. That's what my dad did. He still grabbed hold of what was left and lived it as fully as he could.

"Accepting your new reality" is hardly a slogan for Elizabeth Edwards, who clearly preferred lies to reality, at least in the pursuit of power.