Inside the cognitively dissonant marriage between John and Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards attends a house party in Bre...

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The political and domestic soap opera around John and Elizabeth Edwards is fascinating.  Last year, Elizabeth’s incomprehensible timing in pushing out her book – Resilience, as well as her appearance on Oprah, was full of intrigue and had everybody talking.

Up until now, the depth of criticism has been directed towards her naive denial over her husband’s betrayal, throwing her ambitions and unequivocal support behind an unworthy man, and the crappy cards that life had dealt her – death of a young son, cancer, shit of a husband, and a family in ruins.

But that’s all about to change.  A new book on the Edwards is coming out, and it ain’t pretty.

While the world has an inkling of Edwards’ vanity and shallowness, the portrayal of the “ego monster” this time around will no doubt cement him as one of the most-hated political has-beens of the last decade.

During the 2004 campaign:

Edwards reveled in being inside the bubble: the Secret Service, the chartered jet, the press pack, the swarm of factotums catering to his every whim. And the crowds! The ovations! The adoration! He ate it up. In the old days, when his aides asked how a rally had gone, he would roll his eyes and self-mockingly say, “Oh, they love me.” Now he would bound down from the stage beaming and exclaim, without the slightest shred of irony, “They looooove me!”

Even though at the time, the Democratic Establishment was already heading in a whole other direction.

In the Senate, in particular, Edwards was regarded almost universally by his former colleagues as a callow, shallow phony. Quietly, the Establishment began a quest to find a different alternative, eventually settling on the unlikely horse that was Obama—with Harry Reid personally, and secretly, urging the Illinois senator to run against Clinton.

But the biggest revelation has to be that of Elizabeth Edwards.

Previously painted as the plain yet intelligent, doggishly loyal wife of a pretty boy Senator, perpetual victim of fate, this book will lift that shrouded veil, once and for all.

Her simultaneous distrust, jealousy, and condescension over her intellectually-inferior husband conjures up little more than pity, for a women so thoroughly consumed, and entrapped by her insecurity and indignation.

She called her spouse a “hick” in front of other people and derided his parents as rednecks. One time, when a friend asked if John had read a certain book, Elizabeth burst out laughing. “Oh, he doesn’t read books,” she said. “I’m the one who reads books.”

As her husband becomes more of a megalomaniac, Elizabeth’s behaviours towards campaign staffers were also raising eyebrows.  Far from the classy, higher-than-thou saintly Elizabeth, this is the portrait of a petty, vulgar, self-absorbed and abusive tyrant.

[B]ecause their own relationships with her were so unpleasant that they felt like battered spouses. The nearly universal assessment among them was that there was no one on the national stage for whom the disparity between public image and private reality was vaster or more disturbing.

During the 2004 race, Elizabeth badgered and berated John’s advisers around the clock. She called Nick Baldick, his campaign manager, an idiot. She accused David Axelrod, his (and later Obama’s) media consultant, of lying to her and insisted that he be stripped of the responsibility for making the campaign’s TV ads. She would stay up late scouring the Web, pulling down negative stories and blog items about her husband, forwarding them with vicious messages to the communications team. She routinely unleashed profanity-laced tirades on conference calls. “Why the fuck do you think I’d want to go sit outside a Wal-Mart and hand out leaflets?” she snarled at the schedulers.

Once the affair became exposed, the fighting between the couple became constant within the campaign, although still contained from the outside world.  The Enquirer story was not taken seriously nor picked up by mainstream publications for ages.  But it was little respite for Elizabeth, as her rage became increasingly volatile and public.

At the terminal, the couple fought in the passenger waiting area. They fought outside in the parking lot. Elizabeth was sobbing, out of control, incoherent. As their aides tried to avert their eyes, she tore off her blouse, exposing herself. “Look at me!” she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.

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