Hee! Hee! Hee!I'm cracking up every time I look at New York Magazine's terrific Nathan Fox artwork used to illustrate a chapter of the John Heilemann and Mark Halperin book, "Game Change," chronicling the 2008 presidential race. The chapter excerpted in that periodical, "Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster," is about the complete self-destruction of John Edwards along with his campaign and marriage. Never has a candidate fallen so far and so quickly as you can see in both the the story and the illustrations. And what illustrations! The picture of Elizabeth Edwards ripping off her blouse on the upper right is explained by the authors which presents a picture of something less than the wedded bliss which John and Elizabeth Edwards portrayed to the public:
At the terminal, the couple fought in the passenger waiting area. They fought outside in the parking lot. Elizabeth was sobbing, out of control, incoherent. As their aides tried to avert their eyes, she tore off her blouse, exposing herself. “Look at me!” she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.
And the cause of this angst? None other than John's mistress Rielle Hunter with whom he later allegedly had a love child (and I think it is safe to now delete "allegedly"). Below is the Nathan Fox depiction of Rielle coming on to John when they first met. It could be subtitled, "Edwards about to enter a world of hurt":
The illustration of an enraged Elizabeth Edwards below is explained in the section about the first public revelation of John's affair in the National Enquirer:
Roger Altman picked up the phone in his 38th-floor office on the East Side of New York and found Edwards on the line. Altman, a former deputy Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and a supporter of Hillary’s, was chairman of the investment group Evercore Partners. Since 1999, Evercore had owned a stake in American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer—and it was that connection which prompted the call that day in the first week of October.
There’s a story about to come out in the Enquirer, Edwards said, that’s going to allege that I had an affair with a woman who used to travel with my campaign. The story is untrue and outrageous, he claimed. It’s going to be extremely hurtful to my family. Could you please do something to stop it?
Altman barely knew Edwards, but could tell he was upset. “I haven’t heard a word about this,” Altman said. “I’ll look into it, but there’s really nothing I can do.”
Altman called David Pecker, the Enquirer’s publisher. We have evidence, Pecker told Altman. “This thing could have a big impact on this guy, so let’s be triply sure,” Altman said. Pecker replied that he already was.
A little later, Altman’s phone buzzed again. This time it was Elizabeth, in tears.
You must do something about this, she begged. It’s cruel, it’s unfair, and it’s untrue. This is way too much for me. I can’t take it. It’s killing our family. It’s killing me.
This last illustration cracked me up the most. Imagine the look on John Edwards face when he picked up the National Enquirer to read about his love child with Rielle that was on the way. Okay, you don't have to imagine too hard. All you have to do is have a look at Nathan Fox's depiction of the event:
On December 18, the tabloid published a follow-up to its October exposé, and this one was a doozy. Whereas the first story had not named Hunter, the new piece featured a photo of her six months pregnant, bore the headline “Update: John Edwards Love Child Scandal,” and claimed that Hunter had told “a close confidante that Edwards is the father of her baby!”
Interestingly the biggest scandal might not have been the foibles of John Edwards. Instead it was the willingness of members of the mainstream media in refusing to report on a scandal that many of them knew about. As late as August 4, 2008 when the Web was abuzz about the Edwards scandal, the MSM still refused to report on it as Guy Adams of the UK Independent noted:
Consider, against this backdrop of falling circulation and a failing industry, the decision of every mainstream paper in America to ignore the juiciest political story of the month (and possibly the year): the discovery by National Enquirer hacks of John Edwards, in the corridors of a Beverly Hills hotel, where his alleged mistress and alleged love child were also staying, at half past two on the morning of Tuesday, 22 July.
Since Edwards was, until recently, hoping to be president and will almost certainly have a prominent role in any Barack Obama administration, his marital integrity is a matter of public interest. It could yet become an election issue. Yet neither the highfalutin NYT, nor the Tribune, nor even the LA Times, on whose patch the whole sordid business occurred, have yet stepped up to the plate to report it. Their old-fashioned reticence seems quaint, in this day of kiss'n'tell and chequebook journalism. But it's also depressing: one of the reasons America's newspapers are dying is their perceived pomposity. Readers say they are too timid to rock the boat; right-wingers complain (with some justification) that they conspire to suppress damaging stories about Democrats. The general public thinks they have simply become boring.
The Edwards story could be selling truckloads of newsprint. It is attracting enormous traffic online, and has been devoured by viewers of Fox, the only TV network to report it. In ignoring the affair, newspapers are sacrificing potential readers and repeating the mistakes of the 1990s, where they loftily decided against reporting Bill Clinton's many bedroom misdeeds, allowing internet sites to claim the Monica Lewinsky "scoop."
Yes, it would have been nice if Heilemann and Halperin had focused more on the MSM willingness to cover for John Edwards. However, that aside, kudos to New York Magazine and Nathan Fox for their wonderful illustrations. Your humble correspondent, who at a couple of points in his checkered career worked as a comix writer would love to see more use of such graphics not just in New York Magazine but in many more media outlets as well. Remember, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to incorporate such graphics online.
And now for an encore of the John Edwards look of shock when reading the National Enquirer headline: