When somebody tells you things could always be worse, take heed.
Case in point: When the recession had the nation in its tightest grip, the White House transitioned from President George W. Bush to President Obama. Bush detractors didn’t like the first thing he did during his eight years on Pennsylvania Avenue, and Obama detractors have had the same hard feelings against him.
It was a time of turmoil – housing values plummeting, financial institutions and car manufacturers unstable, 401Ks and stocks dropping like lead birds, two wars going full tilt ... the only thing on the uptick was unemployment, which was steadily rising as 7 million or so jobs went poof.
So, what would it have been like if, in the middle of all that uncertainty, John Edwards had been elected president?
The thought crossed our mind Friday as Edwards pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he broke the law by not reporting nearly $1 million that was spent to keep his mistress Rielle Hunter and her out-of-wedlock baby secreted away while he and his wife campaigned in 2007-2008 for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination. A federal grand jury indicted Edwards last week on six felony counts – conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements for keeping the spending off the campaign’s public finance reports.
The government maintains that Edwards, who was working hard to put across an image as a devoted family man, spent $725,000 donated by Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, the 100-year-old widow of banking heir Paul Mellon, and $200,000 from former campaign finance chairman Fred Baron to prevent his presidential bid from being skewered.
Edwards, who confessed to the affair and to fathering the child after all attempts to lie about them and hide them failed, contends he has “done wrong,” but that he “did not break the law.” He said he was trying hide his extramarital affair and offspring from his wife, Elizabeth, who died last December after her cancer returned.
Whether federal prosecutors will be able to make this case remains to be seen, but can you imagine the disarray the nation would have been in if all this had broken during the first months of an Edwards administration that was trying to work through the financial meltdown that greeted Obama?
A president whose wife is battling cancer is found to have been having a secret affair with a former campaign worker with whom he has a child out of wedlock and then federal officials accuse him of spending $1 million illegally to cover it all up.
Wouldn’t have done much to enhance his ability to deal with the crises at hand, would it?
Fortunately for America, the scandal broke in time to blow the Edwards campaign out of the water. But when you think about, how much do we really know about the people who aspire to lead our nation – or our state, for that matter?
It’s something to keep in mind as the clock ticks down toward the 2012 elections.