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Published: Friday, 8/15/2008

Edwards proves to be just another smooth-talking phony

ANY WOMAN who's ever been let down by a man inevitably winds up kicking herself for thinking he was different. "How could I have fallen for that smooth-talking phony," she will wonder. "I should have known better."

Her sympathetic girlfriends will tell her he's not worth the aggravation. Move on, they will urge, and she will but not before she has the last word.

In the grand scheme of things, what with wars, famine, and pestilence, the man who done her wrong is barely an asterisk. But he could have been president of the United States. For a time, he fooled a lot of people into believing he was a man they could live with the next four years.

He was a self-made millionaire with a zeal for ending poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth. He spoke movingly about two Americas divided between the haves and have-nots, and led a compassionate crusade of changing life for the latter.

He was exceedingly bright, articulate, and quick on his feet. After making his fortune - not surprisingly - as a successful trial lawyer, he turned his boundless ambitions to public service as a Democratic U.S. senator from North Carolina and then as a presidential candidate.

But the Southern populist had to settle for the vice-presidential nominee slot on a losing ticket. Still, he made a lasting national impression and in the ensuing years, kept an active profile in his many altruistic projects.

He gained the admiration of many who would become supporters when he decided to run for president again. Here was a man who could easily live happily ever after off his riches with his lovely wife and three children choosing instead to fight the good fight.

Fans saw him as a man motivated by a genuine concern for his country. He was out there in shirt sleeves pressing his message of hope and new leadership long before other presidential candidates joined the fray.

In an especially memorable moment of the campaign, he stood with his stricken spouse explaining that even though her breast cancer had been diagnosed as incurable, both had agreed that his candidacy must go on. It was too important for the future that his drive and dreams for a better America not be dashed.

The uncommon courage of the couple was striking. She, an accomplished lawyer in her own right, was a model of unfathomable strength. He, who had already lost a young son to tragedy and now faced a terminal prognosis for his wife, seemed to grow in stature among supporters and opponents alike as a man determined to matter.

Yet 2008 would not be his year to be president. He would step aside, leaving legions of disappointed followers who had fervently put their hearts, time, energy, and resources into his campaign.

It was because of them that he remained an influential player in subsequent presidential politics, making the eventual nominee wait until the last minute for his endorsement and slyly keeping his name afloat as a prospective running mate. To be sure, he was a shrewd operator with a disarming smile who, it must be noted, was hands-down handsome.

He was also, it turned out, a lying cheat whose Achilles' heel was a super-sized ego. Figures. Like too many other men in power before him, he thought he could get away with anything - including having an affair and covering it up while campaigning to be leader of the Free World.

Even as he oozed sincerity about morals, honesty, and family values, he was lying through his teeth about an extramarital romp with a blonde who was making a video about him. Men. It took a supermarket tabloid to expose the truth with scintillating details about a love child that may or may not belong to the married father of three.

He denies it but, of course, his credibility is shot. Plus, his orchestrated mea culpa to the media was as self-serving as his earlier denials had been.

The man actually blamed his affair on the adulation surrounding his remarkable rise as a national figure. He was a vulnerable victim, unable to withstand the ego-boosting hero worship he attracted. In other words, the circumstances conspired against him, inflating latent egotism and narcissism with a sense of invincibility.

Women have heard everything from two-timing men over the years but that line of defense is really rich. It bespeaks of a comeback plan once the outrage has subsided.

This philanderer is no Gary Hart. His political banishment won't last forever. Plenty of former frauds have found a home at Fox News. Maybe he could land a job as a liberal commentator on the cable network.

Or maybe even Fox will decide John Edwards isn't worth the aggravation. How's that for the last word?



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