Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cancerous nonsense

The venality of the pundit class was brought front and center this week by the chorus of response to the news that John Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, has incurable cancer.

Among the moral giants jumping to second-guess the Edwardses' decision to carry on with the campaign were Rush Limbaugh ("You know, most people when told a family member's been diagnosed with the kind of cancer Elizabeth Edwards has, they turn to God. The Edwards turned to the campaign") and Joan Vennochi ("That is where John Edwards could step in, or should. But, for whatever the reason -- her strong will, his strong ambition -- the two keep racing forward"). As Digby says:
This is one of the characteristics I viscerally loathe in certain members the human species -- sanctimonious, busy-body, judgmentalism coming from people who have neither the insight, the perspective or the sensitivity to render any kind of opinion about other people's personal lives and marriages. And yet they do it, with great confidence in their own ability to see inside other people's most personal relationships.

But almost certainly the worst of the lot was Katie Couric's interview with the Edwardses, which was simply a triumph of the worst impulses of the current generation of journalistic elites -- particularly the willingness to trump serious discourse about the course of the nation with personal issues that have little or nothing to do with it. As Taylor Marsh put it:
Over and over and over and OVER again, Ms. Couric asked variations on the "you know you're dying so what's the point?" theme. How about a segue into health care? No. Talking about how the Edwards have opportunities for health care others don't have and just maybe that's what they're fighting for? No. How about talking about their faith, which anyone can see is at the core of their ability to be strong during this challenge. Nope, Couric only wanted to talk about how others might judge them, their ambition, how it's too stressful to take care of his wife and be president at the same time. As if while being president life can't throw you some challenges. Good Lord, it was a disgrace, as well as a missed opportunity.

If understanding how a candidate for higher office deals with life-threatening illnesses and personal loss is critical to gaining insight into their ability to run the country, then let's make that consistent across the board, shall we?

For instance, if we want to gain insight into how a real Republican deals with it, we need merely apply the Newt Gingrich standard here:
In 1962, Gingrich married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, when he was 19 years old; she was seven years his senior at 26 years old. Jackie raised their two daughters, worked to put Newt through graduate school and was a loyal political wife. Gingrich and Battley divorced in 1980. Battley has charged that Gingrich discussed the terms of their divorce settlement while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. According to L.H. Carter, his campaign treasurer, Newt said of Battley: "She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer."

This being the case, I hope the next time Katie Couric has Gingrich in the studio, she'll repeatedly ask him about this. Or at least she can make a glancing reference to it. Lord knows, the last time she didn't -- in fact, she simply let Gingrich get on the air and repeat one of his famous urban legends. I guess the "toughness" she brought to the Edwards interview wasn't needed on that occasion.

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