John And Elizabeth Edwards’ Class Act
Take that, Ann Coulter….
Amid tragic circumstances, America at the beginning of a tempestuous 21st century has just seen a role-model couple in politics. Not the kind of plastic, smiling presence indicative of many political couples for so many years. But something that seemingly went beyond the political or perfunctory.
John Edwards’ dramatic press conference announcing that his wife Elizabeth’s dreaded breast cancer had returned, but that the couple decided he should press on with the campaign anyway, truly seemed the real thing. It was a moment in Presidential campaign 2008 — which actually begun about a milli-second after the calender changed to 2007 — that transcended politics.
Or did it? Hotline On Call notes that the political calculations were going on as the event was breaking:
John Edwards’ crusade is larger than John Edwards. And what a way to show that to the world. Some of Edwardses opponents are grumbling, quietly, that the candidate orchestrated this event for maximum publicity and hang time.
. On the other hand, a Democratic pollster wondered to us whether middle America might be creeped out that Edwards wouldn’t suspend his campaign to go tend to his wife. The Edwardses and their staff might be willing to promote the idea of a movement candidacy, but it’s by no means clear that Democratic primary voters are ready to buy it, just yet.
And, indeed, if the behavior and accusatory tone of American politics holds true in this case, it won’t be long before some talk show hosts will soon insinuate this was somehow timed, somehow in some way campaign ploy, and that the Edwards’ should have ended John Edward’s campaign if it was really life threatening. Or (if you read the positive comments from all parts of the political spectrum in the roundup below), maybe not… (UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh has apparently already started.)
But if it happens — and it would not be surprising — would that represent how the American public viewed this bittersweet moment…bitter due to the resurgence of cancer…and sweet due to what came across about the dedication of these two people to each other. Perhaps most Americans would hold the view of CNN’s senior political analyst, Bill Schneider:
The personal is now political. We hear that all the time. Elizabeth Edwards has been called John Edwards’ greatest campaign asset. That may have been true Thursday with her display of courage and confidence.
As she addressed a crowd of reporters in North Carolina about her cancer coming back, was she making a political statement? Of course she was. Just by showing up.
“One of the reasons to do a press conference as opposed to a press release is so that you can see, I don’t look sickly, I don’t feel sickly,” she said.
Mrs. Edwards was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She went to the hospital on Monday for pain in her side and doctors saw something suspicious in her X-ray. The Edwards were told on Wednesday that the cancer had returned to her bones.
By talking about the ordeal herself, Elizabeth Edwards made it clear that she was very much behind her husband’s decision to continue his campaign.
Otherwise, if he had just gotten up and said, “I’m continuing with my campaign, we’ll put out a statement,” he might have been criticized for not taking his wife’s condition seriously enough. The fact that she was there, by his side, made all the difference: it was their decision, not his.
Her husband was making a political statement, too, by not saying anything about his campaign until he was asked. When a reporter asked Edwards if he was going to suspend any campaign activities, he replied, “No.”
And Schneider sees a bigger theme in all of this:
A campaign is a series of tests. Edwards portrayed this as one more. “The maturity and the judgment that’s required of the president, especially in these historic times, requires the President to be able to function and focus under very difficult circumstances,” he said.
This also proves something about him, his wife said: “He has an unbelievable toughness, a reserve that allows him to push forward with what needs to happen.”
And the he hits the nail on the head:
In the past, Edwards has been criticized as a rich populist who lives in a mansion. But now it’s going to be very hard for anyone to portray him as isolated from the real-life problems ordinary people face.
ABC’s Kate Snow recaps the truly breathtaking challenges the Edwards have faced “the loss of their son Wade in 1996, the cancer diagnosis almost 2Â½ years ago and now all over again.”
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of 2008 presidential contender former Sen. John Edwards, is the first to say she’s not special. At a press conference today outside their home in Chapel Hill, N.C., she and her husband announced that her cancer had returned and Elizabeth Edwards said she’s just like every other survivor.
“Every time you get something suspicious, you go into alarm mode,” Edwards said. “Every cancer survivor that you know personally has exactly that experience.”
Edwards has become the voice of those survivors.
Since her diagnosis more than two years ago, Edwards has campaigned not just for her husband on the trail but for cancer victims who don’t have a public podium.
Now there’s a new dimension out there in campaign 2008. Will Edwards stay in the campaign? In a sense, it almost seems a petty question. Because the Edwards’ are going to do what they feel they have and want to do. This new component doesnt mean Edwards’ opponents or the press go any easier on him. But it adds a new twist — something that isn’t the product of campaign strategists.
Meanwhile, the decision to stay in the race has a particularly 21st century dimension to it.
Once upon a time (like in the last century..) someone with cancer or HIV would consider a normal life almost ended. But that increasingly is old century thinking; today many people with life-threatening diseases decide they will learn to live with them — and live to the fullest, not listening to voices that impose limits on them (which are not always accurate anyway).
Maybe in the end Edwards will have to drop out. Maybe his campaign will be dwarfed by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
But no matter what happens Americans just witnessed a couple displaying something that wasn’t cynical exploitation but, rather, something rare — a display of commitment to each other and a genuine profile in courage.
OTHER NEWS STORIES OF INTEREST:
Candidates’ personal lives become public domain
Hormones factor into cancer’s spread
Edwards Facing Personal, Political Battles
For Elizabeth Edwards, Life Goes On With Cancer
SOME OTHER VIEWS ON THE EDWARDS ANNOUNCEMENT (These are excerpts so read the entire posts):
Elizabeth Edwards and I shared a common experience of overcoming dreaded disease. Hers was breast cancer. Mine was a brain tumor. We got each other.
I told her how one of my blog readers, a neuro-oncologist, had chided me because I had taken up professional bass fishing after my White House days. I was irresponsible, the doctor told me. I should be advocating for brain tumor patients. I told her I didn’t want to become known as “the brain tumor guy…
….When I interviewed John Edwards a few weeks ago, he answered a question about the suffering he’d endured – the loss of a son, Elizabeth’s cancer – by saying that his faith had come “roaring back” in order for him to survive. We all need to pray for that roaring faith – for him, Elizabeth, and their children. We need to pray for healing for her. And for us? That this illness puts politics in perspective for more than the next news cycle. For the other candidates? That they focus more on issues of compassion.
–Wizbang’s Lori Byrd: “In my earlier post today I expressed my hope and prayers that Mrs. Edwards would not have bad news to report. I neglected to reiterate that sentiment in this post, which just conveyed the information from the press conference. I go into more detail in my earlier post, but for several reasons, in addition to simply being a compassionate human being, I will be praying for the Edwards family. I think they handled the press conference exactly as they should have. As for those saying Edwards should suspend his campaign now, I don’t think anyone can know what is best for the Edwards, but the Edwards themselves.”
He was admirably candid about his wife’s cancer being treatable, if not curable. That paradigm is increasingly common – and it’s affirming to see someone in public life live through it so positively, so admirably and so passionately. She shouldn’t give in to it. One key to surviving serious illness is to live positively and candidly while you treat it. With HIV, I learned to repeat to myself a triad that was essential to surviving any serious medical condition: Own it, face it, beat it. That’s what the Edwardses did today, and they will help a lot of people through their example.
The campaign should go on, as life goes on. The cancer should neither help nor hurt it. But I will say this: Elizabeth Edwards is a truly remarkable human being. And her marriage is an inspiration.
–Jane Hamsher (who herself battled cancer) blasts a pundit who raised an eyebrow over Edwards staying in the race:
For the good of the nation…. Elizabeth Edwards is no longer entitled to free will, self determination, and certainly not capable of making decisions about her own life. Nor is she entitled to respect for her choices which we think are honorable but are really just selfish. No, she and her husband owe it to white males everywhere to do the brave thing. Edwards must forthwith kneel by her bedside, teardrops falling on her porcelain hand as he scribbles love sonnets with parchment and quill. Because let’s face it, she’s got one foot in the grave..What patronizing drivel. How thoroughly offensive.
–Kos: “He’s not dropping out or suspending. Good.”
–Protein Wisdom: “Best wishes to him & his family, as the race just got unimaginably more grueling for them.”
–James Joyner: “Iâ€™m not sure what to make of his decision to press on despite what would appear to be terminal cancer in his wife. My instinct is that a wealthy man, who can certainly afford not to â€œworkâ€? (if you want to call campaigning for president â€œworkâ€?) should spend as much time as he can with his wife under the circumstances. Then again, I presume they made this decision together as a family and, for all I know, Elizabeth talked him out of quitting.”
–All Spin Zone: “Iâ€™m not so sure I could make the same decision as Sen. Edwards, but Elizabeth has been Johnâ€™s most vocal advocate. She knows whatâ€™s at stake, not only for her but the country, and this amazing woman wonâ€™t let her husband quit. We wish her the best.”
–Dean Bartlett at Hugh Hewitt’s blog: “The campaign will go on. So will Elizabeth’s fight. Godspeed to them all.”
It’s a tough call for Edwards to make, and it’s tough to criticize it either way. I think it’s fair to say that Elizabeth has invested herself pretty deeply into John’s campaign up to now, and she probably strongly resisted a suspension in the campaign. If this is what will keep her spirits high, then Edwards made the right decision….
….Edwards has the good fortune to have a fortune, so he can keep his family close while on the campaign trail. If he can balance the needs of his family with a presidential campaign, then he’s made the right decision. I’m not hoping he succeeds in his political ambitions, but I do hope he stays strong for his family and that Elizabeth can remain as healthy as possible from now on.
–Attytood: “Whatever you think of the politics of Elizabeth Edwards and her husband, it is simply impossible not to admire their personal courage.”
1) I hope that Elizabeth Edwards has a swift, full recovery.
2) The earlier reports appear to have been wrong.
3) I am a little surprised, to be honest. Given Edwardsâ€™ wealth, the time needed for a campaign, and the long odds for anyone running for President, I would think that perhaps he would have at least suspended the campaign. The decision, obviously, in theirsâ€“but I still find it odd
–Ezra Klein believes Elizabeth Edwards didn’t want her husband to quit and adds: “There’s a sort of subtle insinuation that sick people should crawl back into their caves and stay there till they either die or get better. But when you hear the Edwards’s discuss the idea that her cancer is now incurable, that it’s not something she will get better from and so not something where they can hit pause, wait for it to pass, and then resume their lives, you have to think that the question they’re asking themselves is not how can Elizabeth best get well, but how would they like to spend the rest of their years. And knowing her even casually, I’m not surprised to learn the answer is “fighting.”"
–The American Street’s Kevin Hayden: “The choices belong to Elizabeth and John. Whatever they decide will be right. Who else has the right to determine how best to live out a life than the person living it? That Elizabeth chooses to live her live fully is the course of a champion. I join her and all her loved ones in hoping she gets to reign as a champ for many years ahead. And may we all grow more enlightened and considerate from her example.”