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Can Edwards Recover Like Clinton?

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On May 31, the jury in the John Edwards campaign corruption trial found him not guilty on one count and remained hung on the remaining counts. The judge then declared a mistrial on those other counts. As of this writing, it is unclear whether the prosecution will seek to retry him on those unsettled counts.

The case involves the use of donor funds during Edwards's 2008 presidential campaign that were directed towards hiding the then-candidate's affair with his mistress - an affair that resulted in a love child - while his wife was dying of cancer. The defense insists that the donations in question were personal gifts rather than political campaign donations.

I am not a lawyer. Like the jury, I am personally hung on most of it. I cannot read the minds of the donors nor the recipients of that money, so I will not guess at their actual thoughts or intents. And perhaps that was where the jury was coming from.

I want to state right now that I do not like John Edwards. I used to be a fan until this scandal unfolded. Then I just saw him as sleazy, narcissistic, and untrustworthy. But even the sleazy, narcissistic, and untrustworthy deserve the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. And apparently guilt was not proven in this case to the satisfaction of the jury.

Now Edwards is talking about dedicating his life towards helping impoverished children in the U.S. and worldwide. That is commendable. It might make me even like him a little bit more than I do at this moment.

But to do good works like that, it helps to have a sympathetic support base. Can Edwards still attract that base given his current reputation as a sleazy, narcissistic, and untrustworthy cad?

The question brings to mind how former President Bill Clinton rebounded from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Bill Clinton now is a greatly beloved philanthropist whose Clinton Foundation does a lot of good work. His marriage survived, and his wife is now our very highly regarded Secretary of State. The Clintons' support base is now probably bigger than ever.

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Somehow I cannot envision a similar rebound on Edwards's part. Perhaps he's just not as likeable as Clinton. Or maybe the case is just still too fresh. But I sincerely do hope that he can turn his life around now and do some good.

For that, I wish him well.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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