An oldie but goodie: How John Edwards ruined the Dave Matthews Band for me (and other tales of philandering politicans)

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There isn’t enough room to keep a lot of CDs in my car, so I rotate them in and out. My musical whims are like Michigan’s mercurial weather: they change from moment to moment, mood to mood.

When I was purging my household for my annual yard sale last month, I rediscovered “Under the Table and Dreaming” by the Dave Matthews Band, which was released way back in 1994. Rather than add it to the sale, I put it back in my mobile rotation. I’ve shared favorite tracks like “Ants Marching,” “Warehouse,” and “Jimi Thing,” with my 10-year-old kid who absorbs music like a chubby little sponge.

Now John Edwards has spoiled my enjoyable musical interlude.

News reports say former presidential candidate Edwards will admit he fathered a daughter with Rielle Hunter, the woman who had been producing campaign videos for him.

While awful, that’s not what’s creeping me out. It’s that Edwards may also have promised Hunter a rooftop wedding in New York, complete with an appearance by the Dave Matthews Band, according to a story in the New York Times. The paper reports that Andrew Young, the former aide to John Edwards who had originally claimed to be the father of Hunter’s baby girl, wrote in a book proposal that Edwards promised Hunter the marriage ceremony after the death of his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, who suffers from breast cancer and remains very much alive.

The image in my mind’s eye of Edwards and Hunter slow dancing to “Lover Lay Down” (another track on “Under the Table and Dreaming”) by the Dave Matthews Band at their wedding after the death of Elizabeth Edwards haunts me. It makes my stomach hurt.

My wish for Elizabeth Edwards is a long, healthy life after she successfully negotiates a huge divorce settlement from her trial-lawyer husband, leaving him with only the shirt on his back and a cabin with no electricity and indoor plumbing deep in the North Carolina woods.

Can I get an amen?

In this era of high-profile philanderers, “The Good Wife,” a new series starring Julianne Margulies, debuts on Tuesday. Margulies plays the wife of a corrupt politician. Her husband winds up in jail after a scandal that features a prostitute and she resumes her career as a defense attorney to build a new life for herself and her two kids.

Some things about the plot line sound familiar.

We only need to think back to last year when New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was caught dallying with a high-priced hooker. For days on end, the image of Spitzer at his press conference announcing his resignation, wife at his side, was everywhere.

It was during this time that I was eating in a restaurant alone and eavesdropping on several business women having lunch.

Up for discussion during this particular lunch was Spitzer’s now-infamous resignation announcement from the Empire State’s top elected spot, with his wife, Silda, standing obviously unhappily by his side.

As she stood beside her philandering husband, and the press corps reported to the world on what had to be the most humiliating moment of her life, Silda Spitzer spoke volumes without saying a word; the look on her face said it all. As her husband apologized for his “private failings,” women everywhere felt her deep pain, including the women on whom I was eavesdropping.

“Yeah, I’d be standing by his side,” one said. “With divorce papers.”

“Divorce papers?” another woman said, laughing. “I’d be there with a gun.”

But Silda didn’t choose either of those paths. Instead, she stood by his side. Maybe there’s something in the political spouse handbook requiring unwavering support, no matter the crisis. Maybe she’s a better, more forgiving wife than I.

In my neck of the woods, the wife of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick dutifully sat by his side during what had to be the most humiliating moments of her life. The mayor was in the midst of the scandal swirling around steamy text messages that confirmed an affair on the taxpayer’s dime with his chief of staff, a scandal that landed him in jail.

Carlita Kilpatrick sat next to her husband, gazing lovingly at him, holding his hand as he gave his mea culpa to the camera. She professed her love for him in a performance that elicited a collective groan in my house.

Are these women part of the phenomenon of making decisions in direct opposition to one’s own best self-interest? Maybe it’s part of the deal; maybe, just maybe, there are few innocent bystanders in the rough-and-tumble world of high-powered politics.

Perhaps sex outside a marriage is something to be expected of “powerful” men, and standing by a straying partner part of a political quid pro quo.

JFK had Marilyn Monroe. Thomas Jefferson had Sally Hemings. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower is rumored to have had an affair, as are other presidents from both parties. And who can forget former President Bill Clinton, who did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.

Is the coupling of sex and power somehow greater than that of love and marriage? Do they go together like a horse and carriage?

Spitzer’s replacement as governor of New York, David Paterson, who made headlines as the nation’s first legally blind governor, confessed that he and his wife had both engaged in extra-marital affairs when their marriage hit a bumpy patch.

Paterson feared blackmail, so he felt it best to bring the indiscretions into the open.

Now we learn that John Edwards allegedly promised his baby mama a wedding featuring an appearance by the Dave Matthews Band.

Because of him, I had to take “Under the Table and Dreaming” out of my car.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was originally published Sept. 29, 2009, as an Editor’s Pick on Salon.com’s Open Salon website. As John Edwards’ criminal trial on misuse of campaign funds gets under way, it seems like a good time to revisit this post.

 

About Maria Stuart 211 Articles

Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse. You can check out her website by clicking here.