“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” — Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire Of Louis Napoleon (1851)
Most of what Marx said has been proven wrong by history, but that quote still holds up with a vengeance. The opening pages of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland describe vividly the days in which Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, having seemingly vanquished the forces of the Right for all eternity, was on the verge of ushering in a second Era Of Good Feelings (as defined by Democrats and seconded by Rockefeller Republicans) when the Watts riots gave the nation a brutal slap on the face and ushered in a series of violent and chaotic events that brought about the resurgence of conservatism.
In much the same way, as President Obama’s first 100 days closed last Wednesday with Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democrats and David Souter’s notifying the White House of his planned retirement, the stage seemed set for the final triumph of liberalism for this century, if not millennium. All that was needed was for Al Franken’s smirk to materialize in one chair in the Senate, and all would be well.
But alas, in the preceding weeks, a distant rumble of things to come could be heard. Early last month Knopf published How It Ended, the collected stories of Jay McInerney. best known for Bright Lights, Big City. This volume garnered its author the best reviews of his career. And, in some of these, it was mentioned that one of the tales in the book, “Penelope On The Pond,” imagined Alison Poole, the heroine of McInerney’s 1988 novel Story Of My Life, as a discarded mistress of a presidential candidate, biding her time in a quiet cabin somewhere in the Rockies. The reviews further noted that McInerney has often acknowledged that Alison Poole was based on Rielle Hunter.
Rielle Hunter? Wasn’t she involved with that guy who had the most famous hairdo in politics before Rod Blagojevich came along? Didn’t he once run for Vice President or something? What was his name, um…Edwards, John Edwards, right?
Yes, John Edwards, who, in the eight months since I last posted about him, heeded the bidding of the Democratic establishment and faded into the woodwork, appearing in public only at University of North Carolina basketball games, while Rielle Hunter, the mother of an infant girl whose precocious head of hair somehow brought him to mind, was banished from her mansion in Santa Barbara (after the death of her benefactor and Edwards’s finance chairman for his 2008 presidential run, Fred Baron, in October) and exiled to a modest house in South Orange, New Jersey. It seemed a sure thing that neither would be heard from again.
But that was before it was reported that Elizabeth Edwards, the terminally ill wife of the ex-Senator, was about to publish a new book, Resilience, in which she discusses her husband’s affair. And before the Raleigh News and Observer, which has quietly followed the ins and outs of the Edwards scandal ever since the onetime Veep-presumptive bamboozled the paper’s executive editor into killing an article about his affair in late 2007 (by denying it and claiming that such a story would cause needless suffering to his wife), informed America last Sunday that a Federal investigation into the financing of his 2008 campaign was now underway.
Yes, like the most evil genie imaginable, the Edwards Zone, with all its many mysteries involving campaign operatives with a taste for high-stakes gambling (and a propensity to claim parentage of babies whom they then completely ignore), trial lawyers who send their private planes on round trips from Texas to make hour-long stopovers in Caribbean islands noted for offshore banking, and nonprofit foundations that manage to channel millions to LLCs that abruptly vanish, has come back.
In a column to appear in tomorrow’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd articulates the frustration that many liberals in the media must feel. It’s been long understood that John Edwards’s narcissism was close to uncontrollable; it took all the weight of the Democratic establishment to prevent him from touring college campuses last fall and to quietly go back to the Tar Heel State.
But what drives Elizabeth Edwards to go on Oprah Winfrey’s show, as she did today (for a taping that will be broadcast on Thursday), to speculate on how much or how little young Frances Quinn Hunter resembles the man who might have been a heartbeat away from the Oval Office if a few thousand votes had gone the other way in Ohio four and a half years ago? What is going to happen when Andrew Young (not the venerated lieutenant of Martin Luther King and former UN Ambassador, but the aforementioned operative) goes before a grand jury and is asked to explain why his own mother told a reporter she does not believe his claim, made through a lawyer, that he fathered Rielle Hunter’s daughter? Or when such a body ponders the question of why the chartered plane carrying Ms. Hunter and her daughter from California to the US Virgin Islands would make a quick stop in Mobile, Alabama, to acquire a passport for the infant – a passport not needed for travel to those islands, but necessary for, say, a visit to the Grand Turks and Caicos, to which the aforementioned private jet traveled for an hour during Ms. Hunter’s sojourn?
Last year, I wrote a dozen posts on this subject, and posed the questions that I think need to be raised by diligent Federal prosecutors to a grand jury. Some more have arisen, notably regarding the three million or so dollars donated to a nonprofit affiliated with Edwards by Rachel Lambert “Bunny” Mellon, the 98-year-old heiress who, until now, has been best known for providing her nation with the beautiful landscaping design that the South Lawn of the White House has had since the Kennedy Administration. (The nonprofit then paid an equivalent sum to an LLC – with the same address as the nonprofit, and which vanished from the records at the same time the nonprofit closed up shop in 2008 – for “consulting” work.)
If the Democrats have any luck, sullying Ms. Mellon’s legacy of Camelot will be the worst that John Edwards will do to the liberal tradition. But I have the feeling that there’s a considerable chance that the true dimensions of the events involving Edwards and his associates between 2006 and 2008 will emerge, little by little. The question is how many journalists will follow the lead of the News and Observer (and some other North Carolina media) in looking into the scarifying revelations in the heart of….the Edwards Zone.