But fate intervened. With his indictment on misuse of campaign funds last week, "America witnessed the latest distasteful episode in ... (the) fall from grace of a political comet."
Grace, as any unblinkered observer could detect, is not a word that ever belonged in the same sentence with John Edwards. But from the beginning of his political career, liberal enthusiasts gushed about his talents. He was, People magazine pronounced, America's "sexiest politician." Nicholas Lemann of The New Yorker called him "the next Bill Clinton" -- without irony. Katie Couric was impressed by more than his looks: "He was the first to raise issues like poverty, universal health care and climate change," she said. "He bucked the conventional wisdom and took political risks, speaking honestly about why he wanted to raise taxes, for example." Ah, yes, bucking the conventional wisdom by talking about universal health care and climate change.
The Washington Post doubtless speaks for Couric and her crowd when it sees in Edwards' fall "the spiral of the Great Man."
In fact, John Edwards, Mr. For the Little Guy, who, in his own words, "represent(ed) people who were in very difficult places in their lives and tr(ied) to give them a shot," made his fortune as an ambulance chaser. No one who examined his career as a fortune-hunting, slick, and unscrupulous trial lawyer should find any inconsistency in his later incarnation as a manipulative, mendacious, and morally bankrupt politician.
As a trial lawyer, Edwards specialized in suing obstetricians after the birth of babies with cerebral palsy. Employing junk science and theatrical courtroom oratory, he convinced juries that the doctors' failure to perform Caesarean sections soon enough caused the disorder. The Edwards technique included speaking for the unborn child. In his summation at one such trial, an emotional Edwards told the jury: "She speaks to you through me. And I have to tell you right now -- I didn't plan to talk about this -- right now, I feel her. I feel her presence. She's inside me, and she's talking to you."