The National Enquirer spent months chasing John Edwards and digging into his relationship with Rielle Hunter before busting him spending the night in a hotel with the woman and the former Democratic presidential candidate's alleged love child. It was impressive and quintessential tabloid work. But there's no reason the paper should have had the scandal all to itself. Isn't this the sort of thing traditional newspaper tabs like the Post used to cover? And even starchy broadsheets should have had some interest — it was the Miami Herald that busted Gary Hart in 1988 (when his mistress left his townhouse — shades of the Edwards affair) and the Times that broke the story of Eliot Spitzer's whoring earlier this year.
Don't forget, also, that Newsweek's Michael Isikoff had the initial dirt on Monica Lewinsky a decade ago. A reputable magazine could have broken this story, as well!
In fact, the media had a full nine months to get the goods on VP hopeful Edwards following an October Enquirer story and coverage in the Huffington Post and Slate, and even longer if they were paying attention. According to the Enquirer, Edwards met secretly with Hunter "several times" after the fall coverage, so there was dirt there for an enterprising reporter to find.
But now that the meat of the scandal has already been aired, campaign reporters will have to content themselves with after-the-fact analysis, including sad questions like the following:
- Why did the Enquirer move forward with its second story now? Because it finally caught him red-handed or because, unlike in October, there's a love child involved at this point?
- When is an affair a political career killer? Bill Clinton was able to stump effectively for his wife despite the Monica Lewinsky mess; San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is said to be eyeing a run for California governor despite sleeping with an aide's wife and people have already begun talking about Spitzer's rehabilitation.
- More to the point: When is an affair while your wife is dying of cancer NOT a political career killer? Is there a "he needed to get through the pain" angle? Or is it more "he needs to not show his face around here again, ever" situation?
- Remember when John Edwards was considered a serious contender to become Barack Obama's running mate? Those sure were the days, eh?!
Prediction: Edwards admits to having made a terrible mistake in a moment of weakness last year, but assures everyone he was only visiting Hunter again because of the child, and out of a sense of duty and obligation. His name isn't mentioned in a political context for another eight years, when he launches a third-party presidential campaign with running mate Gary Hart, on the strength of their joint reality show.