People magazine puts Elizabeth Edwards on the cover this week to spotlight her anguish over Silky’s adultery. We learn that there was much “tension” behind the scenes.
I remember that tension breaking through in public. And it’s interesting to go back and watch it now that everyone knows what John Edwards didn’t want his wife to know and apparently only told her in several, Chinese water torture-like installments.
The odd, uncomfortable interview was aired in December 2006 on Hardball. It caught my eye and ear when Elizabeth joked to Chris Matthews that John Edwards couldn’t tell a joke. Matthews razzed Edwards for letting his wife “bust her balls” and cackled: “Behind every great man, there‘s a woman trying to kill him.” Edwards looked p.o.’ed. The chemistry of the supposedly tight and loving couple was off.
More telling, though, was an exchange that occurred a few minutes later when Matthews raised Elizabeth’s criticism of Hillary. Elizabeth had told Ladies’ Home Journal that she had a “more joyful” life than Hillary because of the choices she had made.
Matthews asked if this was meant as a criticism of Hillary sticking with her cheating husband. The characteristically unflustered Elizabeth Edwards…well, I’ll let you watch the rest. The body language experts should have a field day:
1:19 MATTHEWS: Were you well used by John Kerry?
J. EDWARDS: I‘ll ask—I‘m not—I‘ll let you guys talk about that.
MATTHEWS: I want to fight here.
What did you think of hi joke about—if you flunk out of school, you don‘t do too well, you‘re not too smart, you get us stuck in Iraq. And it got turned around.
What did you make of that?
J. EDWARDS: I think he just made a mistake.
MATTHEWS: What was he saying?
J. EDWARDS: I think he was trying to say, you better stay…
E. EDWARDS: Don‘t go there.
MATTHEWS: No, no. Come on.
J. EDWARDS: … not the first time.
MATTHEWS: I‘ll tell you one thing. I could tell there was a fight coming because Hillary dumped on him, McCain dumped on him, nobody cut him an inch. He just screwed up a joke. He‘s not a comedian, OK?
J. EDWARDS: Exactly.
MATTHEWS: He‘s just not a comedian.
J. EDWARDS: Too big a deal was made of it.
E. EDWARDS: There are not that many politicians who are actually very good at jokes. John spoke one time and I said I wouldn‘t even go because it was—he was supposed to be funny and I didn‘t think he could carry it off.
MATTHEWS: I love it. You‘re great. Behind every great man, there‘s a woman trying to kill him.
E. EDWARDS: He has great characteristics.
MATTHEWS: What is it? Does she do this? Does she bust your balls like this when you come home? When you get (INAUDIBLE), does she do that?
E. EDWARDS: My children are watching this.
MATTHEWS: What‘s this with the equal marriages? Why do people marry their equals? It used to be different? What happened to the Stepford wives, the good old days? What happened?
MATTHEWS: Oh, how P.C. How—why don‘t you hiss?
Oh, thank you. Finally, the freaking hiss. I needed it. It was the hiss. I needed that.
E. EDWARDS: You know have to know how smart his wife is in order to…
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. This is…
J. EDWARDS: He immediately got…
MATTHEWS: … because you know—because Senator—Senator—
Senator Edwards was really—I thought I‘d try to get him at an angle here. He said that, having ran, it‘s like the Super Bowl, they usually win, the team that‘s been there before, or the Final Four, in the case of the UNC, which is always in the Final Four.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve been there before. You have an edge over Mrs.
Obama. Do you have an edge, Mr. Clinton, the first spouse? Do you have an edge over these guys? I‘m mean, you‘ve been there as a candidate‘s wife, you‘ve been there as a candidate.
Can you roll into New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Iowa with some edge?
E. EDWARDS: What I have in those places is not an edge. I think that there are, among the potential spouses this time, I mean, these are fabulous people with enormous skills. I have a lot of friends. I mean, I don‘t go in and…
MATTHEWS: Well, they won‘t be friends.
E. EDWARDS: I beg your pardon?
MATTHEWS: Once the campaign gets going.
E. EDWARDS: No. No, I mean—actually, I had a good relationship, I think, through most of the campaign with the other spouses. But no, I mean, in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, in Nevada, in those—
I have a lot of friends in those. If John decides to do this, I‘m going—
I won‘t be walking into a room full of strangers.
MATTHEWS: Has Hillary ever called you back after you said you had made happier choices than she has and you have a more joyous life than she does because of the choices she made? Meaning, she let Bill mess around?
E. EDWARDS: Is that what I meant?
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that what you meant?
E. EDWARDS: That was completely taken out of context.
MATTHEWS: What was the context?
E. EDWARDS: I had said that the choices I had made—I worked as a lawyer for 17 years, and now I get a lot of intellectual simulation from the conversations about policy that I got from work before, I know get from conversations….
MATTHEWS: But he has not caused any trouble.
E. EDWARDS: No, he hasn‘t.
MATTHEWS: So what did you mean when you said—what did you mean by Hillary having made bad choices?
E. EDWARDS: I wasn‘t. I was talking about my choices making me happier.
MATTHEWS: So I‘m been unfair?
E. EDWARDS: Well, and unfair to both of us, honestly.
Mickey Kaus asks: How big a victim is Elizabeth Edwards?