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Ben and John

A special section of responses to Ben Stein's "Whacked Priorities: John Edwards' private life should have remained that."

8.19.08

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PRIORITIES DIFFER
Re: Ben Stein's Whacked Priorities:

John Edwards, welcome to the Leave Us Alone Coalition.
-- Ira M. Kessel
Rochester, New York

Come on Ben, Edwards was on the short list for VP. It shows a lack of judgment and unbelievable arrogance to run for President knowing you're having an affair and your wife has cancer. The scandal is that the Enquirer had to cover this because the MSM didn't do their job over one year ago.
-- Jim Usher
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Ben Stein has done it again. His points are very well stated and oh so valid. Good job, Ben!
-- Barb
New Jersey

Regarding Ben Stein's article on John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter, I agree that history is replete with examples of leaders whose extramarital affairs in no way diminished their competence to lead. Notably missing, however, from the examples of cheaters Stein listed was that of presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

It's fine with me if Republicans such as Stein want to opine about the Edwards scandal. But lets remember that adultery is not limited to Democrats. And McCain wouldn't be the first President guilty of stepping out on his wife.

If there's any difference between Edwards' and McCain's behavior, it is that, so far, the former North Carolina Senator has not abandoned his wife and children.

McCain's mistress, however, is now poised to become the First Lady. And the children from his first marriage are conspicuously absent from the campaign trail.

Just saying, Ben.
-- Linda Tilsen

Sorry, Ben, your Monday offering was banal, insipid, vapid treacle from stem to stern. Edwards was running for office. He was running to get on board the supposedly future liberal-Democratic political bandwagon and had his eye on a nice slot in it. He put himself in the political and personal coverage crosshairs.

By the way, each and every one of your examples of flawed men was a poster boy for venality and corruption. While it is true that great and good men can be, and usually are flawed, the ones you held up were, with the exception of Mr. Caesar, rather limp arguments for any kind of "greatness." The last sentence was a cop-out. People need to be judged. We do it every day and ought to do it. You do it too. Ask sister Paris.
-- J.C. Eaton
Wisconsin

Maybe it's all that smoke from the California wild fires wafting over Beverly Hills that has Ben Stein's eyes seeing rosy red rather than reality. How else to explain one of Mr. Stein's most inane articles to date? I had hoped it was parody, but sadly, he meant this drivel.

Points Two and Three of Mr. Stein's tripe speak of a frightening naivety and nonchalance concerning Edwards' breath taking hypocrisy, power lust, and sickening moralizing. But more folly from Mr. Stein flows; he applauds Ms. Hunter for having the baby, but it apparently hasn't dawned on him that 15 K a month in support payments might be a substantial motive for being mother of the year. Not to mention her trump card over Edwards: an affair is brief, a child a lasting commitment.
-- A. DiPentima

Although most (married) men may have momentary thoughts of being with an attractive woman they have either just met or spotted walking through the mall many don't ever act on it. (I've never cheated on my wife of 28 years.)

When this story first broke Edwards was in fact running for his party's nomination but the MSM ignored it. I for one am glad that a media outlet was willing to go after a Democrat and expose the true character of the man (Edwards) when the rest of the MSM continues to protect members of the DNC no matter how serious the alleged offenses while at the same time looking for anything (even resorting to making stuff up) to go after Republicans.

I might also add that while it's commendable that Ben is willing to give Rielle Hunter the benefit of the doubt for reasons of keeping the baby, her motives might also be to insure her future is spent with Edwards, a man of great means.
-- John Nelson
Hebron, Connecticut

I normally agree with and admire just about everything Ben Stein writes. Regarding his "Whacked Priorities," however, I have to disagree, vehemently. He is right in that Edwards is no longer a viable candidate for the Presidency nor sits in high elected office but he did hope to play a role in the upcoming Democratic convention, have influence within the party and a future Obama administration. And his detestable acts took place while he was running to lead our nation through perhaps it's most perilous times. Times that will demand clear-eyed understanding of good from evil. Most of all, Edwards billed himself in seeking our support as a holier-than-thou moralizer sermonizing from the pulpit of the Left's Church of What's Happening Now on everything from "global warming" to America's evil warmongering to how we tend to our "poor."

Besides, it is always gratifying to see his ilk, left or right, get their comeuppance. The Left does it to our guys of the same type all of the time making the Edwards case especially sweet for it exposed the double standard hypocrisy of the leftist media, which is to say "mainstream" media. Perhaps if they had taken on the story earlier it would not have devolved into the screaming tabloid blitz that it did. A surprising lapse on their part, for they are generally more astute as to whether news damaging to their team is better managed or ignored. They made the wrong call this time and so watching our adversaries hoist themselves on their various petards makes it all the sweeter. And, unmasking their indifference to the wrongdoing by one of their own, yet again, is no small reminder of their priorities nor morally inconsequential.

The other major difference here is much of our side is truly dismayed and chagrined by our bad boys' hypocritical behavior and more often than not the miscreants are drummed out of our ranks or shunned at the least. The Left, on the other hand, the "smash monogamy," "open marriage" and "alternative values" crowd, really doesn't mind at all but rather cries crocodile tears for such waywardness as a cynical sop to normal Americans whose votes they hope to win. If they have any regrets at all it is for themselves and their electoral chances but unfaithfulness, double dealing, betrayal, untrustworthiness, lying, scheming, duplicity and all the sins of omission and commission that conspire in pursuit of "doing your own thing" troubles them not. After all, is that not what they are about these 40 past years and are they not the "means justifies the end" folks, especially regarding sex? But I would certainly expect such private means of a public man to whatever ends to trouble Ben Stein.

Lastly, out of his great and generous heart, Ben signs on to the oldest moral obfuscation of the secular and atheist Left, to wit, conflating judgment of the behavior with judging the man. God will judge John Edwards the man and mete out His final justice. Ben is right, that is not for me, Ben or any other in this world to presume. But Edwards' behavior is rightly condemned by any decent person who can put themselves into Elizabeth Edwards' and their daughter's shoes for even a split second. No Ben, cry not for John Edwards for the public consequences he suffers here and now are a sort of rough justice guaranteed to transgressors in this world that is as old as history. It's all in the same book you quote at the end, you can look it up.
-- Mark Shepler
Jupiter, Florida

Were we deprived of news of the Russian invasion by editors, or by the calculated choices of Edwards?

How is it Hunter and Edwards were noble in not aborting a baby, when it is far more likely this was no accident at all; rather the calculating laying of hooks into power and wealth by a woman passing her prime for that game. Abortion was never an issue, and Edwards never had a choice to make.

That Elizabeth Edwards would be caused distress in her marriage and terminal cancer is a cause indeed for Sam Adams maxim that the public can never be to cautious about the character of public men. Is there nothing this man will not do?

Let us not ignore Elizabeth as a full partner in this cover-up. She had a hand in planning the intricate details. Perhaps she can write the book for Bill and Hillary so they may come to a less contentious understanding.

We are told Edwards was not running for anything, when he has never stopped running for everything. As if he could.

If Edwards was a eunuch, there is no possibility he could be a great public servant. Socialism destroys the fabric of the public character. I'm telling you this?

Ben Stein's great mind illuminates all the better the ancient Greek maxim that we do not see things as they are, but as we are. But here's a more modern cure for this condition courtesy Will Rogers: When you are in a hole, stop digging. Please.
-- James Wilson

I like Ben Stein, but occasionally he goes Malibu on us, wanting to hold hands as one big happy political family singing "kumbaya" while being blind to the fact that his thinking has become cluttered by too much green tea. Yes, of course, the neo-Soviet invasion of Georgia is more important than a lying philanderer. But, when that philanderer has a power base still able to effect national policy; when that philanderer has a near-psychotic separation from truth telling; when that philanderer has built his entire political reputation on being a great defender of "fair play;" and when that philanderer is still young enough to have a viable political career in the future, then all the tawdry lies, deceits and fundraising manipulations of John Edwards need to be researched, documented and shouted from the highest rooftops. Edwards is a political cancer: he invades healthy political areas, mutating reason with hateful class warfare in order to take over those regions for his own political ends. He brings dysfunction to the nation. Any opportunity to remove him permanently from the body politic should be grasped with clear moral foresight. The Edwards/Hunter affair/pregnancy should be faithfully reported because of its power to reveal, document and codify the consumptive fundamental hypocrisy of the adulterer John Edwards.
-- Robin Wilkenson
Collegeville, Pennsylvania

Let's deal with Ben's position that this story "broke" after John Edwards was out of public service and not running for anything. This is false. And, if the MSM had even casually pursued this story, the "tabloid press" would not have had to do so.

Now let me address Ben's point that this was just natural behavior on John Edwards' part. While it is true that men are not monogamous by nature, women usually are; polygamous behavior is not an uncontrollable addiction. Now I do not have personal knowledge of the Edwards' marriage vows, but if they were in any way traditional, then he violated a sacred promise to his wife, at a time when she was dealing with a tragic illness. So much for honor and nobility.

Does this disqualify Mr. Edwards from being an effective leader? No. But, he did find it expedient to lie to the media concerning this affair and through them to the American people. Now lying, especially for personal gain, may be perfectly all right with some people; but I find it difficult to trust either the words or the actions of a man who would do that. If I can't trust a man, then I certainly do not want him representing me or my interests.

Now, I think that this story should be shelved, as far as continued public scrutiny is concerned. But it is important that the public have a clear idea of the character of their public servants.

As for judging, it is a part of life and we all do it. If Ben were serious about following his last words, he would not have written the article.
-- Michael Tobias

Although I normally have little disagreement with the writings of Mr. Stein, it seems to me that, in this article, he is completely missing the only salient point regarding the media coverage of John Edwards' affair.

Contrary to Mr. Stein's assertion that "courage and love of life is the real story here," I would argue that the only story here that is any of the American people's business is Mr. Edwards' complete lack of integrity. While a candidate for the American presidency and, as such, a recipient of the American taxpayer's dollars, Mr. Edwards repeatedly and publicly lied to the American people. Had he been a man of forthright veracity, as he represented himself to be, it would have been unnecessary for the tabloid media to have "hounded him into hotel basements and men's rooms" to expose the truth. Men of honor do not seek to avoid the truth -- they live by it. Further, the media's pursuit of that truth, which can indeed be accurately characterized as "vicious" in this case, can nonetheless in no reasonable way be held responsible for having "wrecked his wife's remaining life." Mr. Edwards, I'm afraid, bears the sole responsibility for that.

The familial collateral damage arising from Mr. Edwards' disgustingly deceitful actions is heartbreakingly tragic, but it does not constitute justification for withholding truth from the American people. To suggest otherwise, as does Mr. Stein in this article, merely elevates moral relativism to a higher degree of regard than that of eternal truth. In my opinion, this clearly shows that, upon occasion, Mr. Stein suffers from a case of "whacked priorities" himself. He advises us that "judge not, lest ye be judged is still good advice" but, frankly, I can think of no poorer advice when it comes to assessing the merits of a public official. Inasmuch as taxpayer's dollars were being expended on his behalf during that period, I, for one, both expect and demand the absolute truth regarding his conduct during that period. If they, our political candidates, will not provide the truth, then I fully expect our free press to disclose their dishonesty, regardless of the consequences to their loved ones, their career, or to the political party to which they belong.

While not unmindful that public officials, too, have a right to their private lives, I, as their employer, afford them no right to engage in immoral or dishonest behavior during their off-hours. Why? It's because such actions reflect on their character and their character, in turn, or lack thereof, can reflect upon myself and my country. I therefore demand good character from my elected officials and, for that matter, from anyone else whom I pay money to represent me. Had the debacle of President Clinton's lying to a federal court culminated in his being tarred, feathered and thrown out of Washington by a crowd of angry taxpayers, indignant over having been deceived into electing a deceitful, conniving reprobate, perhaps Mr. Edward's would have thought twice before he, too, deliberately tried to deceive an entire nation of his own people. Likewise, perhaps Mrs. Clinton, in her unsuccessful bid for the nomination, would have spared us her lies about braving the fire from Bosnian snipers.
-- Thomas Donley
Remus, Michigan

I've already heard a lot more of the Edwards' adventurous trek into the brave new world of the innovative and new developments in the "Marriage lifestyle." Who would think it that a lawyer to made his fortune suing "Big Tobacco" for the bad choices of other free and rational moral agents would be brought so low? Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

I have already heard more about the Edwards follies than I care to hear. It would be nice that if these things were covered at all that the story would appear in the latest opera review on page 42. Good luck with that. As much as I would like to agree with Ben Stein, there are other considerations. These politicians want to occupy the most powerful positions in the world. They could have taken up teaching, become nurses and doctors, lead businesses, become professional soldiers or any one number of things and had good lives. But they want to walk on the national or even international stage. They will have the power to take my property away, limit medical treatments for my illnesses, and send my children to war. I want to know exactly who and what kind of people they are. If they don't like having their private lives put on display for one and all, tough. It's a package deal.

In our present extravaganza, once again we get to witness the old two-facedness of the media. When a Republican is caught doing the love dance in an airport restroom, it's fair game and it's a grand time for the circus to come to town. When a Democrat is discovered to have a secret love child, we'll get the same fun and games. But with the Democrats we will also get treated to the display of the troubled consciences of our media heroes, who wonder out loud that maybe "we" are going too far. All this hand wringing generates worries that our news wizards will develop carpal tunnel.

Yes. Yes. Poor Edwards has to go home and sit on his pile of money while thinking of what could have been. A few years from now, hardly anyone will remember this scandal. Then he can appear on Face The Nation and Meet The Press as the "tried and true," experienced yet above the fray "deep thinker" on the events of the day. The press might even stop and reflect on "what could have been" if only the self-righteous busybodies hadn't stuck their noses where they didn't belong. Then Brian Williams will come out of the wilderness like John the Baptists crying "Repent. Repent."
-- Mike Dooley

Ben Stein is apparently willing to overlook John Edwards' defining moment: saying that he had his affair while his wife's cancer was "in remission." Maybe that's not a "sign that Edwards might not have been a great public servant" for Ben Stein, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts it's a primary disqualification for a ton of decent Americans.

As for "whacked priorities" the MSM's determination to ignore the story when Edwards was running for president is right at the top of the list.
-- Arnold Ahlert
Boca Raton, Florida

Ben Stein must have been writing in a hurry when he said:

"Nor is it a sign that Edwards might not have been a great public servant. The list of important men with great achievements who have had extramarital liaisons goes from Julius Caesar to Napoleon to Thomas Jefferson to John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton and undoubtedly has a lot longer to run."

His list includes two tyrannical dictators, an inexperienced President who sent troops into combat and failed to back them up and later nearly got us into World War III, and William Jefferson Clinton -- not what many would call a list of great public servants.

And Ben should not be in such a hurry to "credit" Ms. Hunter for keeping Edward's child (if, in fact, it is his). There might be other less-laudable motives for a woman to keep the child of a wealthy man.
-- Tom Thompson
Hurst, Texas

Ben Stein seems to have a severe case of "whacked priorities" himself. His apology for John Edwards' despicable infidelity was breathtakingly pathetic.

The "everyone else does it" defense? Is Mr. Stein kidding? My sweet mother put an end to that defense in our house by the time I was, oh, 4 years old. Try that defense in court while defending a thief or murderer. "Others have done the same thing, so cut my client a break." Yeah, right. It's not a valid defense because it's completely irrelevant to the issue at hand, to wit: Is John Edwards a scumbag? (And including Bill Clinton in a list of great leaders who have broken marriage vows? Is Mr. Stein serious? I mean about the great leader part?)

And while Mr. Stein may direct his fire at the tabloids (which alone did the dirty journalistic work of exposing Edwards for the fraud he is), I'll direct mine toward the source of the story, Edwards himself, who, himself, cheated on his cancer-stricken wife. Any pain Mrs. Edwards may suffer as a result of her husband's betrayal being splattered across front pages is attributable to John Edwards -- and John Edwards alone.

Finally, Mr. Stein's assertion that the tabloids were wrong to focus on John Edwards getting busted cheating on his wife and lying about it because Edwards is not running for any office anymore, is just lame. Edwards' name has come up numerous times as a potential Attorney General in an Obama administration (Lord have mercy). The snake needed to be cut in half so it can't slither back into some important public office in the future. The country is indebted to the National Enquirer for this substantial accomplishment.

I agree we're all sinners. Especially us men when it comes to matters of lust. However, not all of us succumb to temptation and betray our spouses. I resent Ben Steins' contrary implication, and his remarkably unsuccessful attempt to use it in defense of such an obvious fraud as John Edwards.

Maybe Mr. Stein has been in California too long.
-- Dave Mills
Rolla, Missouri

I think that Mr. Stein is going overboard in his defense of John Edwards's private life, mainly because Edwards chose to live his life in public. Once the man made his family a prop in his various political campaigns, and chose to trumpet his strong marriage as a selling point, his private affairs became part of the public debate. And while Edwards may not have been actively running for office when the story was finally picked up by the MSM, it was an affair that began while Edwards was a candidate for public office, and the press had some knowledge of it then. The fact that only the National Enquirer was willing to look into the story does not reflect badly on them, but it does reflect poorly on the media that eagerly went about ignoring the story.

As for Mrs. Edwards, I feel bad for her condition but she is not some innocent bystander in this. She stood by and supported her husband's lie about this issue not out of a need to protect her privacy, but out of concern for her husband's career. According to her, she knew about the affair during his last campaign and stood silently by as her husband lied to the press and the public about the issue, which makes her a willing accomplice in his deception. Not to sound mean here, but I seriously doubt that if she did not have a cancer Mr. Stein would not be treating her with kid gloves, but would be giving her the "Hillary Treatment," because no one gave Mrs. Clinton a pass for covering up her husband's affairs, now did they?

As for Ms. Hunter keeping the child that is great as far as it goes. But do you really think that John Edwards was lobbying for her to keep this baby? Judging from the fact that he has tried to name someone else as the baby's father, and his reluctance to be paternity tested until Ms. Hunter let it be known that she was not willing to do so, the best interests of this child seems to be the last thing on Mr. Edwards's mind. If he were so concerned that the baby be delivered, shouldn't he be at least willing to take responsibility for it?

Finally, the shame here does not lie with the tabloid press for breaking this story; the shame lies with John Edwards and his media allies. The shame is in that Mr. Edwards so willingly broke his vows to his wife, betrayed her and his children to have his own ego (and other places, presumably) stroked by another woman. If he had been man enough to take his wedding vows seriously and to honor them even in the face of temptation, this story would have never happened. And shame falls on the MSM that could have easily investigated this story during his presidential campaigns, but who chose to ignore the story because he was singing the tune they loved so much to hear. The shame is theirs for allowing their partisan sensibilities to shape their reporting on issues (provable allegations against Edwards bad, unsupportable rumors against McCain good) and for rallying to protect this man from the consequences of his actions simply because they liked his politics!

And maybe I'm wrong, but I don't seem to recall any outrage over the Enquirer running a story about the Boy President and his mistress lo those many years ago. Especially since then, as now, their stories are being proven factually accurate.
-- Eric Edwards
Walnut Cove, North Carolina

With his support for candidate Nader, a call for higher taxes and increased wealth redistribution, Mr. Stein's thinking is becoming increasingly muddled. To say that the press have wrecked whatever remains of Mrs. Edwards life is nonsense. John Edwards did that all by himself.
-- Robert M. Bulk
Wilmington, Delaware

I am a most devoted admirer of Mr. Stein and am regularly educated and amused by his prose. However, in regard to his opinion of former Sen. Edwards' sexual misconduct, I couldn't disagree more with him.

First of all, he was running for public office. Until this incident came out, he was a major contender for the Democratic vice-presidential nomination. So his conduct was very much a public issue.

Secondly, and I believe more important, because other men have cheated on their wives does not make adultery any less despicable. I am very fond of Ross Perot's statement on what he thought of cheating husbands. He stated that he would not knowingly hire such a person. A reporter challenged him asking what business of his what his employee's sexual life? Perot said that he was certain that if a man would cheat on his wife, that he would cheat him. Amen.
-- Thomas B. Davis
Lynnwood, Washington

You must be joking Ben Stein, a moral relativist? I, for one, am disgusted with Edwards' behavior and frankly not surprised. After all this is an ambulance chasing, shyster trial lawyer that is as phony as the day is long. And this episode only confirms that for all his pandering, posturing, and postulating this greasy empty suit is nothing more or less than a bum. Really, Ben, he may not be running for office but he was being touted as the next Attorney General should the messiah fool enough of the people to get elected, Attorney General. I have sympathy for Mrs. Edwards and I am not pretending to judge this son of a mill worker (I wonder if his sainted father found it necessary to chase skirt...) that will be up God.

It's time we all stopped making excuses for the behavior of our leaders, just because JFK was having his lady friends snuck into the white house or because Bubba didn't have the character to respect his oaths in favor of cheap sex doesn't make it okay. Mr. Edwards may not be an elected official but he is a public person who chose the spotlight campaigning on a platform of class warfare, moral outrage over the war in Iraq, and demonizing W, conservatives, & Republicans. I have another one for you...

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones...
-- Stuart Reed
Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan

Character certainly matters in people, especially those who would be our leaders. Husbands who habitually and remorselessly cheat on their wives and compound the situation by lying about it are certainly not displaying good character. Edwards admitted his cheating after he was caught and even now is probably still lying about the situation. Edwards lied to the people of North Carolina in order to get elected to the Senate, lied after he got to Washington and lived this lie for several years. The "wacked out priority" is not his critics but Edwards himself.

"Judge not, lest ye be judged" in the Bible is referring to carping criticism, not the sort of judgment we think since we make judgments every day. Isn't some kind of judgment required in order to obey many of Jesus' commands?
-- Don Werenko
Calabash, North Carolina

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