Lee Siegel's piece is a thoughtful one that basically states: Elizabeth Edwards is neither a saint nor a monster, but a very human woman whose exact circumstances we can't know. But then he undoes a lot of that by presenting his own, equally speculative "counter-narrative":
The death of their oldest son in 1996, when he was about 17, changed the Edwards' lives. They blamed themselves; they blamed each other. Politics kept them together; politics drove them apart. The more John triumphed, the further he drifted away from Elizabeth. His triumphs made Elizabeth satisfied; they also made her desperate. Her cancer brought death back into their lives. He grew distant; she became enraged. He found a new image of himself, a new woman who bought it, and started a new life with her, free of death: his son's, his wife's. Elizabeth kept him with her to console herself with an imaginary future, and to punish him. The lying, the delusion, the denial-they were all honest falsehoods pouring out of real emotions. John's self-destruction was how he almost consciously paid himself back for his delusions. (The thing he most wanted was for splendid John Edwards to be president; the last thing he wanted was for inadequate, shameful John Edwards to win anything.) Elizabeth's destructiveness toward the campaign was how she paid John and his supporters back for having no choice but to cling to his illusions along with him.It all turned to shit. They didn't hurt anyone but themselves. Why do we hate them?
This is more of the same, a speculation that's perhaps human (and certainly encouraged by a world in which reality TV encourages us to judge strangers' 2-D lives) but frankly asinine. Is this a more sensitive interpretation? Sure. Is it pure guesswork? You bet. And in one regard, this account feels disingenuous: "they didn't hurt anyone but themselves" does away tidily with anyone who contributed time, money and even just idealism to a cause that both seemed to have known was doomed. And "leave Elizabeth Alone?" She's a figure who's gone voluntarily into the public eye, largely on her own terms. I might chafe at the tone of her coverage and bemoan the predictable forms that criticism takes - but it's an insult to her to suggest that she can't handle a lot worse.
Leave Elizabeth Alone [Daily Beast]