Can John Edwards recover a career from this scandal? That’s the question we’re answering today on The Bottom Line.
First things first. Tomorrow the jury takes his fate in their hands, deciding whether he broke federal campaign laws with those payments funneled to Rielle Hunter. A guilty verdict means up to 30 years in prison, unless he wins on appeal. It will obviously make any talk of a comeback premature — if not impossible.
But even an acquittal is only the beginning. To understand why, look no farther than a recent New York Times/CBS News poll showing that Edwards’ approval rating is an unfathomably low 3% — and that drops to 2% among women. I’ve never seen an approval rating so low in any kind of poll.
Those kind of numbers rule out a political career.
But not personal redemption — and ultimate recovery from the scandal. Here’s what Edwards can do.
First, be an unstinting, unselfish and loving father to all four of his children: Cate, Emma Claire, Jack and Frances Quinn.
Second, focus on deeds, not words. Because the former Senator and Presidential candidate’s credibility has been shredded by the scandal and subsequent trial, it will be shatteringly hard for him to pursue a career which relies on his once fabled rhetorical skills. No one will buy his speeches. That also makes it hard to see how he could go back to the trial attorney career that made him a fortune. Best for Edwards would be to follow through on the fight against poverty that he promoted during his presidential campaign with real action — hands on work.
Here Edwards can look to recent history for an ideal role model — Chuck Colson.
After serving prison time for his role in the Watergate scandal, the former Nixon aide devoted his life to prison ministry. When Colson died last month, he was eulogized as a man who made the most of his life — and helped so many others — despite the dark mark of Watergate. He will be remembered more for good deeds than dirty tricks.
John Edwards is still a young man. And as Chuck Colson showed, those years offer him hope — if he can use them wisely.