Elizabeth Edwards has been all over — showing up in interviews in magazines and on “Oprah” and the “Today Show” — promoting her new book, “Resilience,” in stores last week.
Last week, we sat down to watch Edwards on “Oprah”, expecting to sob hysterically as the terminally ill cancer patient discussed her husband’s affair with campaign employee Rielle Hunter and his possible love child. Admittedly, Elizabeth’s confession that she had only asked John for one thing — loyalty — pulled at the heartstrings. But the sight of former Sen. John Edwards slinking off at the beginning of the interview, and then waiting around to be chastised by Oprah at the end of the show, was off-putting. Then, Elizabeth unfeelingly described how she had learned about John’s affair shortly after he launched his presidential campaign, how she had begged him to pull out, but then stood by him when he decided not to, in order to avoid drawing more attention to their family. There was a disconnect. It wasn’t what we had expected at all.
After the Oprah interview, many in the media chastised Elizabeth for intentionally ignoring John’s infidelity and believing him when he said it had only been a one-time fling. “She ended up going along, helping sell the voters on her husband’s character as a truth teller and charm as a loving husband and father,” Maureen Dowd said in The New York Times. “She had put so many quarters in the shiny slot machine of their mutual ambition. It was hard to walk away.”
The comparisons to Hilary Clinton were not surprising. The Times‘ Alessandra Stanley even compared Edwards to Veronica Lario, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ex. But we are unconvinced that Elizabeth’s intentions were purely self-serving. She’s a onetime cancer survivor battling a terminal diagnosis and has survived the death of a son. It’s possible that Edwards views the world completely differently than any of the pundits that have tried to critique her, her interviews and her book. In short, a perfect tearjerker interview for Oprah. Then why did she seem so cold and unfeeling while speaking to O?
We don’t pretend to understand her motives for standing by her man — even now — or for deciding to tell all now, but we do have sympathy for her. Oprah showed her sympathy, but her critics have not been as generous.
Yesterday, Elizabeth went on the Today show to, as Tina Brown explained, “undo the damage she did to herself” on Oprah. As a result, she has opened herself up to even more criticism of her book and point of view. “Elizabeth fed herself to vultures,” Brown said.
If its true that Elizabeth wrote “Resilience” for her children as much as she did for herself — as she told Matt Lauer — that could mean she wanted to have the last word on the scandal that will inevitably be connected to her forever. As she told Oprah, Elizabeth doesn’t know how much longer she has to live, and when they write her obit John’s affair will undoubtedly be included. When we look at Elizabeth, we don’t see a woman self-imploding, lying to herself and everyone else. We see a sick woman just trying to come to terms with her own death and legacy.
The question is, do you want to read “Resilience”? After all this we must admit, we are intrigued.