The Democratic ticket and the John Edwards affair

There’s been a lot of talk lately that former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) will have some sort of role in the Obama administration, if there is one.

A few months ago, Edwards, the Democratic Party’s 2004 vice presidential candidate, seemed to pull himself out of the VP race. But then, a couple of weeks ago, Edwards quietly put himself back in, telling National Public Radio, “I’m prepared to seriously consider anything, anything [Obama] asks me to do for our country.”

“Anything” could, of course, mean running for vice president. But Edwards has done that before, and he didn’t exactly put Sen. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Biden faces balancing act Budowsky: Trump October surprise could devastate GOP Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers MORE (D-Mass.) over the top.

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Of course, “anything” could also mean serving as Obama’s attorney general, a position that has been mentioned for the former trial lawyer from North Carolina.

In any event, Edwards has shaped up as someone to watch should Democrats win in November.

But now there’s another reason to watch: an extensive story in the National Enquirer providing new evidence that Edwards, in the midst of his presidential campaign, had an extramarital affair that has, perhaps, resulted in a child.

The story began in 2006, when Edwards commissioned a woman named Rielle Hunter — sometimes described as a documentary filmmaker and sometimes as an aspiring actress — to make a series of brief behind-the-scenes Web videos about his campaign.

Newsweek did a short item on the videos, mentioning that Edwards met the filmmaker “at a New York bar where Edwards was having a business meeting.”

That’s all we heard about it until September 2007, when the Huffington Post published a story headlined “Edwards Mystery: Innocuous Videos Suddenly Shrouded In Secrecy.”

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The website’s Sam Stein reported that the videos made by Hunter had suddenly disappeared from Edwards’s campaign website. “No longer am I working on a piece about new media and politics,” Stein wrote. “Now, I just want to know why these webisodes are shrouded in such mystery.”

Then, the Enquirer got into the story, reporting last October that Edwards was “caught in a shocking mistress scandal that could wreck his campaign.”

When Edwards was asked about the allegation, according to the Enquirer, he strongly denied it.

“The story is false. It’s completely untrue, ridiculous,” Edwards said. “Anyone who knows me knows that I have been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years.”

Later, in December 2007, the Enquirer published more details. A pregnant Hunter had moved to North Carolina, living in a house “owned by an Edwards backer” and driving a BMW sport utility vehicle registered to a longtime Edwards aide.

Hunter denied any affair, saying that the longtime, married Edwards aide was actually the father. A lawyer for that aide confirmed to the Enquirer that the aide was indeed the father.

Now the Enquirer has published a new story under the screaming headline SEN. JOHN EDWARDS CAUGHT WITH MISTRESS AND LOVE CHILD!

The tabloid reports that Edwards visited Hunter in a Los Angeles hotel Monday night, leaving her at 2:40 Tuesday morning. When the Enquirer’s reporters confronted Edwards, the story goes, he tried to escape.
Critics might question the Enquirer’s involvement in all this. Perhaps, they might charge, money changed hands to make the story happen.

Maybe it did. But one reads an Enquirer story just like one reads a story in The New York Times. You look at the allegation and try to sort out how much evidence the paper is presenting.

For example, after carefully reading the Times’s front-page story alleging that Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (R-Ariz.) had had an affair with a lobbyist, one could only ask, Where’s the evidence?

That’s not the case with the Edwards story; there’s quite a bit of detail.

What will happen now? Well, we probably won’t hear as many mentions of Edwards as a possible key player in an Obama administration.

But so far, Edwards is going on as if nothing happened. The morning after the Enquirer story appeared, he was in Denver, promoting an anti-poverty project.

Asked about the vice presidency, he said, “I’m not seeking the job. But anything Sen. Obama would ask me to do in his campaign or presidency I would consider seriously.”

Will Obama ask? Not likely.

York is a White House correspondent for National Review. His column appears in The Hill each week. E-mail: byork@thehill.com