Suzanne Fields

Like Dorian Gray, John Edwards had a painting of himself in the attic, absorbing all the wrinkles from a dissolute life, freeing him to campaign for the presidency fresh, perfectly coiffed and without a trace of a care on his brow.

Now we watch the man derided for his vanity as "the Breck girl" age before us, with puffs under his eyes, a strained expression about his mouth, the lilt gone from his voice. The Breck girl has disappeared. Like "the two Americas" he discovered and deplored, he's a divided self -- one for public consumption and the other for private indulgence. His political career was destroyed in the collision of his two lives.

We all weep for his family and can even feel the pain of those who believed in him. The allegorical figure of Hypocrisy moves unseen among all of us. "Neither Man nor Angel can discern Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks invisible," writes John Milton in "Paradise Lost." Such evil can be deadly.

Fortunately for the Democrats, John Edwards' pride goeth after his fall. Democrats shudder at the thought of Edwards as their nominee and the scandal breaking a week before the convention in Denver. The man is now safely a sidelined event, swelling the scene (like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in "Hamlet"), a morbid afterthought but not central to the action.

Politics is theater first of all, and against the backdrop of a mighty ego falling with a mighty thud, we hear the noise of Hillary Clinton's supporters crying like a Greek chorus for "catharsis." Woe to them who would mute their voices in the roll call of states. They want to praise Hillary, not bury her, for she is an honorable woman. A woman doubly scorned by man and party, she's no Lady Macbeth of Little Rock now.

Hillary's husband, likened to Achilles sulking in his tent, reappears on stage as more comic than tragic. When he ascends to the podium at Denver for one last moment in the sun, he is less the man driving events than a man driven by events, and to the margin of public attention. He prescribes hundreds of millions of dollars to heal the sick, but cannot heal his own lame persona. His celebrated hypocrisy -- "I did not have sex with that woman" -- is echoed in the script of the John Edwards soap opera.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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