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We Shouldn’t Feel Guilty for Following Edwards Scandal « The Washington Independent

For weeks now, on both the McCain and the Obama trail, reporters have been tossing the story of a John Edwards affair coupled with a love child like a beach ball dipped in nuclear waste. Drawn to the bright glow of its sensational story, everyone seemed jittery about actually touching it — fearing the repercussions and the aftermath of actual physical exposure. So, instead, despite the constant pleas of friends and family, we decided to punt on it, hoping it would drift into an unmarked room where they store Hitler’s brain under Elvis’ watchful eye. This was after all a story generated and reported on thoroughly by The National Enquirer — the checkout-counter tabloid whose journalistic tactics (paying sources chief among them) are shunned by established news organizations.

But that doesn’t mean we weren’t looking. Indeed, on a bus in Indiana the other day, journalists traveling with Sen. Barack Obama gathered in the back to gawk at the photo of Edwards with the supposed child. The photo was blurry, some said, it couldn’t be him! Others said, well, why would they run it if they weren’t absolutely sure? In many ways it was a story that held us hostage: No outlet wanted to give it an air of legitimacy as long as it was being driven by the Enquirer. However, the minute someone in the respected ranks reported it, or Edwards responded to it, there’d be no doubt we’d be attacking it like a pack of dogs trained by former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

Now, here we are. On the day the Olympics started below the smog of Beijing, and Russia decided to plunge the world into diplomatic peril and angst with the invasion of Georgia, Edwards announced that he did indeed have an affair but it had ended long ago and, as Michael Jackson said in "Billy Jean," "She’s just a girl who claims I’m her lover, but the kid is not my son." OK, the child is a girl, but you get the point. Why he was visiting the woman late at night in the Beverly Hills Hilton seemed beside the point.

Over the coming days, not only will the story dominate the headlines, but so will our fascination with it. These are the times where we explore our priorities as Americans, asking ourselves what’s really important — Edwards’ affair or Russia plunging the world into a possible crisis. Of course, pundits are gonna say there’s something wrong with our fascination with the moral failings of Edwards, a seemingly decent guy who stood by his wife through cancer and the death of a son to emerge as a man devoted to the elimination of poverty in America. And, of course, they’re right. But no other citizens of the world could not be drawn to something like this. Our human frailties make us predisposed to scandal and tragedy, to real drama and the great falls of man. So as Russian jets bomb Georgian cities and Kobe helps USA Basketball win Gold, we shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to get as much information as we can on the Edwards scandal. It’s what makes us human.

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