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March 22, 2007

There's No After

I agree with K-Lo. I'd bet good money that John Edwards is staying in the race in part because Elizabeth wants him to. Of the two, she's undoubtedly more politically active, committed, and thoughtful. And whether these are her last years or not, I don't think it's a particularly strange desire for her to want to spend them making a mark, listening to others, trying to make manifest her and her husband's vision of what America can and should be.

There's a sort of subtle insinuation that sick people should crawl back into their caves and stay there till they either die or get better. But when you hear the Edwards's discuss the idea that her cancer is now incurable, that it's not something she will get better from and so not something where they can hit pause, wait for it to pass, and then resume their lives, you have to think that the question they're asking themselves is not how can Elizabeth best get well, but how would they like to spend the rest of their years. And knowing her even casually, I'm not surprised to learn the answer is "fighting."

March 22, 2007 | Permalink


"I'd bet good money that John Edwards is staying in the race in part because Elizabeth wants him to. Of the two, she's undoubtedly more politically active, committed, and thoughtful. And whether these are her last years or not, I don't think it's a particularly strange desire for her to want to spend them making a mark"

No doubt.


Politically, we're entering terra incognita here...

Posted by: Petey | Mar 22, 2007 2:58:13 PM

We just got word here that Elizabeth Edwards will be keeping her campaign appointments here in Cleveland. She definitely means to keep this fight going.

Posted by: nolo | Mar 22, 2007 3:02:36 PM

Crying here. Spot-on, Ezra.

Posted by: litbrit | Mar 22, 2007 3:16:47 PM

Surely Elizabeth and John have shown again today that they are a extraordinary couple, worthy of the national leadership John seeks, and beacons of strength. Real class.

Speaking of The Politicos, the comments there are as bad as LGF could be expected to be. Apparently they have been absorbed seamlessly into the radical right culthood by their readers.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Mar 22, 2007 3:17:24 PM

I'm not surprised to learn the answer is "fighting."

Agreed. 100%.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Mar 22, 2007 3:19:04 PM

Somebody stop me before I get "Elizabeth" tattooed on my arm...

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Mar 22, 2007 3:20:58 PM

litbrit, you're not the only one with tears in your eyes.

Posted by: nolo | Mar 22, 2007 3:21:51 PM

I don't disagree that if the choice is, 'go off and die or go down fighting,' then the choice to fight on is very appealing. What I question is whether running for President is really the best way to spend that fighting time.

Look at how much Gore has been able to accomplish on climate change by not being in politics. As has been pointed out elsewhere, his NOT running has freed him up to make a lot of proposals that political pressures would constrain him from doing as a candidate.

The same might or might not hold true for the Edwardses, but I think it's a question worth asking.

Posted by: fiat lux | Mar 22, 2007 3:36:01 PM

Molly Ivins is another fighter that never saw a reason to quit. Inspiring people, we have.

Posted by: sprocket | Mar 22, 2007 3:39:52 PM

The presidency is not a vanity post. I applaud both Elizabeth and John for committing to fight for it not because it is easy, but because it is worth doing. If Bush has taught us anything its that it really, really, matters who is in the presidency--that's its a really important job. Its clear to me that Edwards and Elizabeth got into this race because they see a crying need for someone serious to try to take the helm. If they thought that before her cancer recurred why would the cancer change their minds? Its all the more important to keep fighting. I honor them.


Posted by: aimai | Mar 22, 2007 3:52:17 PM

Somebody stop me before I get "Elizabeth" tattooed on my arm...

No kidding. I'm pretty sure my wife wouldn't even mind.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 22, 2007 3:55:10 PM

I'm pretty sure my wife wouldn't even mind.

That is, if I were to get a tattoo of "Elizabeth" on my arm. I'm quite confident that she won't mind what tattoos Neil chooses to get.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 22, 2007 3:56:52 PM

....i dont think the option is between crawling in a cave to wither, or running for the presidency.
.....there are ways to make a difference in family, community, society in a balanced way under any circumstances.
..elizabeth edwards seems to be a truly iconic and legendary individual and perhaps these reflections are not relevant in this case (hard to know)...but there is another issue that comes to mind in thinking about this story.
...there is a balance that is lacking for many women..between addressing the needs and desires of others, and those that society has placed on them, and those of themselves.
though that may surely not be the case in this situation,
....there is something in the concept of "self-nurturing" for women for which there are few role models today.
...it is a disturbing truth that many women no longer know how to take time and take care of themselves without guilt and apology.
....there is so much emphasis on accomplishment and expectation...for two generations of women, it appears that self-nurturing and "time out" is considered weakness.
....i come into contact in an emotional way with many young women, and the emphasis on being beautiful, successful, hard-working, physically fit...all the while frequently pursuing high-powered jobs, leaves them exhausted, over-scheduled and out of balance.
...many women are fighting, and getting very worn-out...trying to the "best" they can be, instead of being in a place of balance with themselves and the world around them.
i think this also deserves serious thought.
...and i did, when i heard this news.

Posted by: jacqueline | Mar 22, 2007 4:10:33 PM

Demonstrating my unerring capacity to piss on any blogospheric picnic, I want to complain about this: "Of the two, she's undoubtedly more politically active, committed, and thoughtful." Thoughtful, I'll buy; after all, she's a woman. And not a pol. But how can you be more committed and active than her husband. Here I'll rely on my favorite quote from his campaign manager, David Bonior:

"I haven't seen someone as a national figure do as much on workers' rights and poverty in my lifetime. That includes Bobby Kennedy and people in politics in the ‘60s. He helped organize people in probably 85 different actions, from hotel workers to university janitors to people who work in buildings and factories. He was out there demonstrating, marching, picketing, writing letters to CEOs, demanding that [workers] have the right to organize and represent themselves. He started a center on poverty and became the director at the University of North Carolina. He traveled the country and was a leader in getting a minimum-wage bill passed in eight states."

Interesting, too, to see finally see wide coverage (in the sphere and elsewhere) of Edwards. The previous stories that had generated coverage--the bloggers and Fox News--were done through press releases. Now, today, people are actually seeing him again. Whatever it takes, I guess. It's as if people had forgotten who he was and now they remember: Oh, yeah: He's the good guy, the guy we like.

Posted by: david mizner | Mar 22, 2007 4:13:29 PM

Jacqueline - I think that's an interesting point... but it says more to me about reshaping our working lives than about forcing people to stop working. I've worked with several "type a" women who were fighting breast cancer (one is a very senior person, still fighting it, at the company I recently left), and yes, they had to make adjustments to their lives and schedules... and our work enviornment was very high pressure and rather nonstop (one reason I finally decided to leave)... but it can be done, whehn people are flexible.

I don't think we know, really, how this will play out... how long Mrs. Edwards will feel up to campaigning heavily, what other demands may come into play, how realistic the expectations are. It's also the case that we really don't know how sympathy and/or grief will move (or not move) voters. It's hard to predict, partly because American society is not built around grieving and illness... we tend to want these things to be addressed and done with and put away, and that's not how they work (I think that has a lot to do with the short shelf life of grieving over 9/11 - touching on Ann Coulter's "Jersey Girls" episode). I admire the Edwards for trying to keep going. I don't know that it will work, and we'll just have to see. But really nothing would surprise me after this - Edwards dropping out, seeing it through to a loss, seeing it through to eventually being elected. All of them seem quitre possible.

Posted by: weboy | Mar 22, 2007 4:20:26 PM

Actually, I meant politically in a more specific sense. Edwards is clearly a more committed activists for social change and justice, but I think Elizabeth is more interested in the actual political scene.

Posted by: Ezra | Mar 22, 2007 4:20:34 PM

once again, i agree with your insightful opinions.
.....i suppose the part of the story that resonates, is the unexamined aspects of all of this in our society.
as you said,the american dream doesnt deal well with grieving and illness, or with the dark underbelly, except to sensationalize it,glamourize it or deny it.
it is surely wonderful to see rescue efforts rewarded, people waltzing with prosthetic legs and signs that say "mission accomplished".
....it is rare to see the frailties and fears of things addressed...
the story you see on television are not someone saying "i am scared".."i need help"..."i am human".
we dont like to know about the demons of our heroes...
we just like them strong, courageous and beautiful, by the light of day.
no-one wants to hear about the dark night of the soul,
unless it was corrected in rehab.
while there is beautiful message in accomplishment and striving,there is value and ennoblement and grace in the acknowledgement of vulnerability and inner struggle.
there are times to race and times to rest.
for all of us
.....this story made me think about these things.

Posted by: jacqueline | Mar 22, 2007 4:37:45 PM


She'd make a damn good candidate. I suppose dealing with cancer, working for her husband, and beating Liddy Dole is too much to ask. Her career as a candidate will have to wait until after her 8 years as First Lady. Stay Alive!

Posted by: david mizner | Mar 22, 2007 4:41:29 PM

I want to turn this thread around. The bottom line is that her cancer is INCURABLE STAGE IV. That means the BEST we can hope for is maybe the chemo drugs which will cost upwards of $200,000 might keep her alive for 6 months best case scenario. The average lifespan after diagnosis for stage IV is only 3 months, and thats with the best chemo drugs available. Meanwhile the drug companies get rich off drugs that dont work worth a damn.

Under a national health care system, Elizabeth should be told that we'll pay for hospice care and palliative medicine, but we are not paying for $200,000 worth of chemo drugs that will at best extend her life by a few months. Bear in mind that her quality of life in those few months while on these massive doses of chemo would best be classified somewhere between a slug and a worm.

Posted by: joe blow | Mar 22, 2007 4:42:54 PM

Did I mention that Elizabeth's oncologist makes a shitload of money by selling her these chemo drugs as well? Oncologists buy chemo from the pharma company and "resell" it to patients at a huge markup. NY Times ran a story about this recently.

Posted by: joe blow | Mar 22, 2007 4:44:09 PM

Melissa (Shakes) made a point in comments that really resonated with me: faced with the two choices--continue the campaign for president or drop out--it would be unbearable for a partner to see the other drop out, no matter what he or she said, no matter how many refusals that it wasn't your fault; it was probably at Elizabeth's insistence that John Edwards chose to go forward.

Which is not to disagree with the very real and very thoughtful points made by jacqueline. There are terrible pressures on women, all of them concurrent, and few women take time to heal themselves when illness strikes in major or even minor form. I know this to be true, alas.

Posted by: litbrit | Mar 22, 2007 4:45:06 PM

(That should have said "illness strikes in minor or major form. Sorry.)

Posted by: litbrit | Mar 22, 2007 4:47:13 PM

She is a brave and inspiring example. The next time I hear someone whine about how they don't have time to vote or educate themselves in making a decision, or if they just complain politics is too tedious to follow, I might mention this. It's amazing. Good for both of them and I hope, no matter what happens in the campaign, she continues to fight for a very long time.

Posted by: ice weasel | Mar 22, 2007 4:49:45 PM

You know, I spent the better part of the nineties arguing that the private life of a pol doesn't matter, but as it turns out, it does matter to me that by all accounts and appearances Edwards doesn't get some on the side. Do private lives matter or not? Help a brother out.

Posted by: david mizner | Mar 22, 2007 4:52:02 PM

i am of the decidedly unpopular opinion that the private lives of leaders matter.
everyone makes misguided choices, big and small.
but the actual intent and the effects of our personal decisions on the fate and well-being of others makes a difference.

Posted by: jacqueline | Mar 22, 2007 5:01:41 PM

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