Cheating On Your Sick Wife An Old Political TraditionS

You know what's "funny" about John Edwards getting busted (pretty damn convincingly) by the National Enquirer while meeting his mistress and love child in a Los Angeles hotel? Edwards' cover story was that he was in LA to meet with the city's mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa — and Villaraigosa, like John Edwards, cheated on his wife right after a primary election! And also, wouldn't you know it, Villaraigosa's wife Corina was battling thyroid cancer at the time, sort of like how Elizabeth Edwards is now battling breast cancer. Isn't that... awful? Yes, yes it is. But also it's part of a long trend among certain American political candidates to ditch their sick wives. In fact, you might remember this disturbing behavior from such examples as: the current presumptive Republican nominee for president!

John McCain, you'll recall, had a very loyal wife who eagerly awaited his return from six years in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp. Unfortunately, a terrible car accident left Carol McCain both shorter and fatter than the swimsuit model she had been when McCain married her. Said to be appalled by her appearance, McCain started seeing other women. He left her for a rich 25-year-old (his current wife!) after buying Carol a beach house, which turned out to be kind of a cruel gift to a woman with bum legs.

The thing is, Carol McCain blames herself for the end of the marriage, and supports her husband's political campaigns. She and others had an easier time forgiving McCain's behavior because of all he had been through in the war and the presumed emotional toll of that experience.

Edwards will not get such leniency, although it will probably noted that his life has not been without significant pain — not only is his wife battling cancer, but Edwards lost his only son Wade in a car accident in 1996, when the son was in high school.

Newt Gingrich has garnered even less sympathy for his treatment of Jackie Battley, his high school geometry teacher and first wife. As detailed in Salon in 1998, Battley bore Gingrich two daughters, put Gingrich through graduate school and stood by him over the course of two losing Congressional campaigns. So of course Gingrich had a bunch of affairs and insisted on working out his divorce from Battley while she was in the hospital recovering from uterine cancer surgery.

Gingrich, of course, went on to lead the first Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 40 years, serving as speaker for half a decade. McCain will lead the Republican convention in Minneapolis this September. And Villaraigosa has been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for California governor.

And those are all guys who actually left their sick wives for other women. John Edwards' career might actually be totally fine! Oh, except for the love child thing — no one else has actually taken it that far. And the kid will make it hard for Edwards to hold together the marriage. So, actually, nevermind, John Edwards is still totally screwed.