Commentary: A better use for tax dollars than trial of John Edwards

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverMay 7, 2012 

Remember how in the Bible, Moses’ punishment for disobedience was being denied entry into the Promised Land?

And how in “The Godfather,” Carlo was told his punishment for his role in Sonny Corleone’s killing was not death, but to be kept out of the family business? (Of course, the fat guy in the backseat killed him anyway.)

The worst punishment John Edwards could suffer for misusing campaign funds – next to being forced to ride in a car with that same fat guy seated behind him – was to deny him the love of the electorate, forbid his entry into the White House and hold him up to public scorn.

Check, check and check.

So the question is: Why is the federal government still spending our money to prosecute this guy?

Although they’ll never admit it, some people begrudge Edwards his youthful looks, his pretty hair, his occupation and think his persecution – uh, prosecution – is warranted. Fine. Just send them the bill and use my tax dollars for something else.

Edwards is not being prosecuted for being a reprobate, not even for his questionable choice of paramour. He is being tried for violating campaign finance laws for allegedly using $900,000 in political donations to hide her. As one of his attorneys explained, Edwards was not trying to influence the election: he was simply trying to hide his pregnant girlfriend, Rielle Hunter, from his wife.

Is there a man or woman alive who wouldn’t?

In addition to the money spent to show the world what a cad Edwards was – cheating on a terminally ill wife with a tart he met on a street corner and risking taking an entire political party down with him had he gotten the nomination – the government has recently spent equally prodigious amounts of moolah to prosecute baseball players Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Clemens’ retrial is set to begin as soon as they finish picking jurors, and Bonds, after a prosecution that reportedly cost more than $55 million, was sentenced to 30 days house arrest on a misdemeanor.

Have you seen this dude’s house? Say, judge, how about throwing me in that brier patch?

Misspent millions

The millions spent to prosecute Bonds, Clemens – $10 million reportedly for the first trial – and Edwards could pave lots of roads and create lots of jobs. That would be a much better use of federal dollars, especially when the star prosecution witness is Andrew Young, a profligate-spending, admitted liar who had a dude crush on Edwards so intense that he, according to his wife’s testimony – neglected his own home fires in order to tend to Edwards’.

Johnnyboy Edwards is by no means beyond redemption. For instance, he has gone to El Salvador to help build homes for poor people – and if paying for this trial defense doesn’t break him, he may go again. Barring, however, a resuscitation of Nixonian proportions, his political life is kaput. It is inconceivable that he could now be elected to the town of Robbins’ soil & water conservation board or even get as many votes as I did – 14 – when I ran for Rockingham City Council.

After that, for a man who once had designs on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, jail where is thy sting?

Face the former believers

One prospective juror, the Associated Press reported, was dismissed from the Clemens retrial when she told the judge this about the retrial: “I don’t know if that’s the best use of government tax dollars at this time.”

Oh, so honesty is now a disqualifier from jury duty? Sending Edwards on home to live out his life in well-earned ignomy is the harshest punishment that can be inflicted upon him – and it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime. The only thing close to being that harsh would be to make him, each day upon awakening, look into the demoralized faces of his true-believer campaign workers at his Chapel Hill headquarters the day he quit.

I did, and it hurt.

Like Sisyphus

The irony is that Edwards may have made a good president. Lord knows he was the only one talking during the campaign about “two Americas” and the need to help poor people. Now, though, like Sisyphus eternally doomed to keep pushing that boulder up the hill without ever quite reaching the top, Edwards – if the government would just leave him to his own devices – is doomed to realize that he will never reach the top.

OK, if you’re not familiar with Greek mythology, it’s like dangling a jelly doughnut in front of me for eternity – just out of reach of my mouth.

Knowing that he could’ve achieved some of the goals he’s had seemingly since birth and that they were derailed by a raging libido and lack of discipline will be a more fitting – and painful – punishment than any fine or Club Fed prison sentence the government imposes.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service