I was going to sit out the John Edwards judgment but… who can resist?

The awful, can’t-turn-your-eyes-away parade of witnesses, many of them John Edwards loyalists, painted a portrait of a loathesome human being, a man corrupt of values, a shockingly callous husband, and a politician blind to his own errors. That man, after the jury deadlocked, spoke of being a sinner. Yet, a lawyer always, he parsed his words so as not to invite a repeat of the prosecutor’s ire.

I hark back to the hard winter of 1998-99, when a freshmen U.S. senator came to the fore as an earnest prosecutor in the impeachment case against a president, William Jefferson Clinton. His elders in the Senate leaned toward his guidance, given his years as a successful defense lawyer. It seems almost laughable now, the eager North Carolina senator standing in judgment of a president who obviously shared his taste for extramarital romps. Like Clinton, Edwards believed he was beyond the reach of those who would weigh his wanton behavior with his desire for higher office. Senator, president, vice president — and even attorney general at the height of his arrogance, knowing his “sins” were about to become public.

Last winter I met a young idealistic woman who grew up in Iowa. Her parents were a “mixed marriage,” one a Democratic activist and the other a Republican. As her political debut, she had chosen to do grassroots organizing for John Edwards in 2007-2008. She was humiliated, disillusioned, and questioning her own judgment of human character. I assured her that Edwards was a con who had fooled people with many more years, maturity and money than she. I hope she doesn’t give up on democracy because of the lowlifes who prey upon idealism. Washington, sadly, is filled with them.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.

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