Commentary: Is John Edwards' road to redemption in reality TV?

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverOctober 6, 2010 

There's hope for John Edwards after all.

If Rod Blagojevich can appear on a television reality show, Texas' Tom Delay can shake and shimmy on "Dancing With the Stars" and a philanderer such as New York's former Gov. Eliot Spitzer can get his own show, then surely Edwards can rebound from his monumental fall from grace after the revelation of his affair with a jezebel he met on a New York street corner.

First thing he needs to learn to do if he's planning a re-emergence, though, is pull on his boogie shoes and learn to dance.

Seems the easiest way for a pol or celebrity to overcome disgrace and infamy is to dance it away on "Dancin' With the Stars" - as did disgraced pol Tom "The Hammer" DeLay and now teenage mom Bristol Palin - or go on Donald Trump's show "The Apprentice" like the ousted Illinois governor, Blagojevich.

Spitzer's show, "Parker Spitzer" - he teams with columnist Kathleen Parker - premiered Monday on CNN. If Spitzer's re-emergence denotes anything, it's that there is no longer any shame in shame.

In a recent opinion piece, Northwestern University media studies professor Laura Kipnis sought to examine the way society's views on scandal have changed. Noting the resurgent or undiminished popularity of South Carolina's "Appalachian-Trails-hiking" - his euphemism for extramarital hanky-panky - Gov. Mark Sanford or Louisiana's cheating conservative Sen. David Vitter, Kipnis asked: "When did we, as a moral community, become such doormats?"

When, indeed?

I'd rather eat a dead cat fried in turpentine than watch Spitzer's show, but I'd love to pop open a cold one with him just for the chance to ask, "What is it like to pay anybody $3,000 for an hour?" or "What can a woman - or two or three - do for that kind of money, besides paint my house?"

Carnality seems to be the unbowed Spitzer's area of expertise, and it's hard to imagine anyone taking seriously his views on anything else. CNN, inexplicably, is counting on millions of viewers to invite him into their homes via television and hear him expound on national and international issues.

As for Kipnis' contention that we've become doormats when it comes to morality, the reality is probably that we've not become more accepting of immorality, but of hypocrisy. Take Bill Clinton, for instance.

It was widely known that homes was a rake and a scamp from way back, so what for most politicians at the time would have been a politically fatal injury - the Lewinsky scandal - barely inflicted a flesh wound on Clinton.

OK, he was impeached. But his reputation wasn't sullied any more than it already was.

Unlike Spitzer, who was New York's crusading attorney general before becoming governor, Clinton never held himself up as a paragon of virtue battling the forces of evil.

Remember the old saying, "Nothing succeeds like success?"

In the case of Spitzer, Sanford and others, you could change that to nothing succeeds like X-rated excess.

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