Elected officials should behave
Published: Sunday, June 5, 2011
Updated: Sunday, June 5, 2011 16:06
On Friday, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) was indicted before a federal grand jury for allegedly using illegal campaign donations to conceal his affair with a mistress from the voters, according to the Washington Post.
What makes this sad is this is an amazing fall from grace for someone who had serious potential to affect change in this country. Edwards is a high-profile figure; a brilliant, well-educated man who rose to fame through his abilities as a personal-injury lawyer who was able to win large settlements for the people whom he represented.
When we were first introduced to Edwards, most regarded him as a handsome, well-spoken man with a certain southern charm to him that resonated with many voters. This led Edwards to become a prominent figure within his party, as a U.S. senator and a fierce advocate for the poor. Edwards spoke many times of making the eradication of poverty "the cause of his life." Given his personal wealth and visibility as a public figure, he certainly had the means and attention with which to tackle this and many other issues.
There is no doubt that if he is indeed found guilty of the allegations against him, he will have definitely engaged in wrongdoing unbecoming of a former public official and national figure.
The sad part, however, is the potential that has been lost due to his personal downfall. As a former U.S. senator, vice presidential candidate and presidential candidate, he carried a fair amount of influence with the American people.
Had it not been for this affair and the current allegations against him, he could have easily found himself serving as a prominent figure in the Obama administration, possibly as a U.S. ambassador or a cabinet secretary. His voice could have been an important part of the national discussion on the problems that the government currently faces, instead, he finds himself looking at possible prison time.
Edwards fell prey to the personal aggrandizement and narcissism that can develop in people who are given great power. Edwards admitted this himself in an interview with ABC News in 2008, where he discussed his affair with Rielle Hunter.
"I went from being a senator, a young senator, to being considered for vice president, running for president, being a vice presidential candidate and becoming a national public figure. All of which fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want. You're invincible. And there will be no consequences," Edwards said in the interview.
This type of behavior and thinking also cuts along party lines. Former U.S. Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.) rose to become chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a body charged with electing Republicans to the Senate. He recently resigned from office amid a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into an affair with a woman who was married to one of his top legislative aides.
With great power comes great responsibility, which is an important lesson that some elected officials never learn. Elected officials who are in power and given the public trust need to remember that they are public servants and are not invincible. Hopefully Edwards can serve as an example of how not to behave, and politicians will learn to be humble and walk softly.