Good on ya, Jay Carney, for being the first pundit out of the gate:
With that grim statement, I—and, presumably, many other listeners—assumed that the former North Carolina Senator and top-tier contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination was ending his campaign, or at least suspending it.
Yes, because Elizabeth Edwards is now a cripple. Handicapped, a withering violet who must be banished from public life, consigned to the fainting couch. Quick, somebody fetch the laudanum and lace hankies.
Instead, Edwards said nothing would change; his campaign would continue and Elizabeth would be by his side on the road. Elizabeth spoke about the importance of her husband's campaign, how the country needs him to be president. Both said there was never a debate yesterday, as they were receiving the news about her condition, about whether he should drop out of the race. John said that when the two of them were alone, Elizabeth was concerned about everyone but herself—her children, her husband and her country, in that order, but not herself.
He clearly meant it to be inspiring, but there is also something discomfiting about that statement. Even more discomfiting was Edwards' claim that by soldiering on while his wife has incurable cancer, he would be proving that he could deal with the pressures of being president. I wonder how voters will react to that sentiment.
Edwards is staying in the race, so the effect of today's announcement on the Democratic contest will be limited. But there will be an effect. Despite his and his wife's optimism, political professionals, donors, activists and regular voters will all have to wonder going forward whether or not Edwards will be able to stay in the race all the way to the end. It is certainly true that with effective treatment, Elizabeth Edwards could live many years. But it is also true that even the best treatment isn't always effective, and that bone cancer is particularly lethal. Edwards' supporters, and surely many average Americans, have to be wondering at what point the candidate will decide that his duties as husband and father to three children, including a 6 and 8 year old, trump his duty to his country and the cause of winning the White House.
So says Dr. Jay Carney, board certified in…um…well, we'll get back to you on that.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have so far overshadowed Edwards in this race, but he is a top-tier candidate and a real threat to win the nomination. He leads most polls in the key first-caucus state of Iowa, which he came close to winning in 2004. To put it bluntly, Edwards is the leading white male Democratic contender for a job that has only ever gone to white males. If, in the future, he either suspends his campaign or drops out of the race entirely, his supporters will have to look around and decide which of the remaining candidates comes closest to fulfilling the promise they saw in him.
For the good of the nation (and presumably white males everywhere, who need to have a champion in the race according to white male Carney), Elizabeth Edwards is no longer entitled to free will, self determination, and certainly not capable of making decisions about her own life. Nor is she entitled to respect for her choices which we think are honorable but are really just selfish. No, she and her husband owe it to white males everywhere to do the brave thing. Edwards must forthwith kneel by her bedside, teardrops falling on her porcelain hand as he scribbles love sonnets with parchment and quill. Because let's face it, she's got one foot in the grave.
Who the fuck does he think she is, Elizabeth Barrett Browning? What patronizing drivel. How thoroughly offensive.
Update: Signs of intelligent life at Time.