Saturday, August 16, 2008


The more that comes out about the John Edwards scandal, the more disappointed and disgusted I get. What goes on in a marriage is the business of the people in it -- but to act as recklessly and stupidly as Edwards did while running for president, in a campaign that placed Edwards' marriage to Elizabeth Edwards front and center, makes it more than just a private matter. Suffice to say that my support for Edwards was predicated on his not being terminally reckless and stupid.

The only other thing I have to say is that Edwards should consider this advice that was offered to Tom Delay a few years ago and follow the example of the British politician Jack Profumo:

In 1963, a British politician named John D. “Jack” Profumo became embroiled in a scandal when it was revealed that he was having sexual relations with a young woman who was also seeing a Russian diplomat widely acknowledged to be a spy. (The incident was dramatized in the excellent 1989 film “Scandal” starring Ian McKellen as Profumo.)

At first, Profumo denied he was involved with the young woman. But as the evidence mounted, he admitted the affair and resigned his position as secretary of state for war. The scandal rocked the conservative government, leading to the downfall of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

What Profumo did after his resignation is interesting. Unlike the young woman he had been involved with, Profumo didn’t write a book or try to capitalize on his behavior in any way. He maintained a public silence and went to work at a soup kitchen called Toynbee Hall, in London’s gritty East End. (His wife stayed with him and also devoted herself to charitable work.) Eventually, Profumo became the chief fund-raiser for Toynbee Hall. His contacts brought in millions. Independently wealthy, Profumo never accepted a salary from Toynbee.

Profumo died on March 9. Of course the obituaries mentioned the scandal, but all went on to say that Profumo had earned redemption. He was lauded for his service to society. Francis Aungier Pakenham, 7th Earl of Longford and a well known social reformer who died in 2001, once remarked that he “felt more admiration [for Profumo] than [for] all the men I’ve known in my lifetime.”

There are second acts in American life. But you have to earn them.

Also note: Profumo started out cleaning toilets, and had to be persuaded to use his contacts to fundraise.

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