An Edwards Admission Is To Politics What A Steroids Admission Is To Baseball

Sources have told Raleigh, North Carolina's WRAL TV station that John Edwards will admit that he his the father of Reille Hunter's 18-month-old daughter, despite having previously claimed the contrary. It's the latest development in the saga that Edwards' public life has become--but what impact will it really have?

It will be easy to fit a paternity admission into the established tropes of the Edwards scandal: an unbelievable lie, the hubris of power, the double life of the top-tier politician, the notion that you can't trust or believe public figures (or, more accurately, you can't assume anything about their personal lives)--even those that seem the most genuine and trustworthy. It will, again, call into question how well we can know those in the spotlight.

The only shock value is that Edwards allegedly came clean last August, when he sat down with ABC. As with that admission, there may be more behind the scenes that we don't know. His wife and family already knew about it before the nation did; and perhaps that's the case again.

But what a new admission means is a further depletion of a public faith that's already been depleted. If Edwards says he's the father of Reille Hunter's child, it means he lied...but we already knew that. It means anything personal can lie beneath an upstanding public image...but we already knew that, too.

It's the same with steroids. No one's surprised to find out that anyone--anyone--used least not anymore. The default, now, is that everyone is suspect. You can't make assumptions, and you have to wonder. Even the stand-up guys.

Repeated revelations of steroid users who lied--some, like the seemingly honest Rafael Palmeiro, forcefully and to Congress--left the Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz with no credibility when his name was leaked as part of a list of players that tested positive for unnamed substances in 2003 (a list that contains false positives and positive results for non-steroid or HGH substances). Even if Ortiz, who is generally accepted in baseball as a stand-up guy, is telling the truth--that he didn't take steroids and doesn't know why his name was on it (which seems entirely plausible)--people are un-shocked by the whole story, and even those who are inclined to believe him, I suspect, are skeptical even of that belief.

Personally, I think there's a good chance Ortiz is telling the truth. But would I be surprised to find out otherwise? No. Anything can happen; certainty is removed.

It's the same with Edwards. What could happen in Edwards' private life, now, that would surprise us? It's best to not even play the game of thinking about it, and accept that he's got a private life that we can't predict.

The intention of this post is, by no means, to judge Edwards. It's none of my business, or any of ours. I don't know what John Edwards has going on, and there's nothing worse than a complete stranger moralizing about someone's private life. That's not how this post was intended. I guess I felt it was okay to talk about because it's so public and iconic...and Us Weekly is sure gonna do something on it. Not that that's a great reason.

And, just to re-tread some worn Edwards territory, a big reason he was judged by the political world at all was not that he had an affair--a matter of his private life--but that he had an affair and ran a campaign anyway. He was accused of jeopardizing the Democratic Party's chance at the White House, misusing the efforts of the people who worked for and believed in him, and possibly jeopardizing the country--all because the affair could have come out under different circumstances. That's the problem a lot of people had.

The point is that nothing can surprise us anymore, and we have to wonder...or at least not assume people don't have skeletons, even after the matter has seemingly been dealt with in public, like steroids were in A-Rod's sit-down denial with Katie Couric. If super-talented baseball god Albert Pujols tested positive for steroids, I'd probably be surprised...but not in the same way I would have been in 1997. And if super-charismatic leader Barack Obama had an affair, I'd sure be surprised about that...but not in the same way I would have been last summer.