This morning on Today Elizabeth Edwards talked candidly about her reaction to Rielle Hunter's Oprah interview — and what she now thinks of the "marvelous man" she married.
Edwards is promoting the new edition of her book Resilience, to which she's added a new chapter addressing her divorce and the full extent of her husband's affair with Rielle Hunter. When Matt Lauer asked her about Hunter's Oprah interview, Edwards managed to be both reserved and honest. Unlike Hunter, she didn't get into specific criticisms (Hunter's comment in GQ about "the wrath of Elizabeth" remains a monument to poor taste). She said only that she was baffled by the fact that John could both marry her and be attracted to "that woman" — a statement tinged with sour grapes, perhaps, but also with the genuine confusion of discovering that someone you thought you knew has a life and a love that has nothing to do with you.
When Resilience was first published, Elizabeth and John Edwards were still married, and Elizabeth's now in the unfortunate position of exiting a marriage she once very publicly defended. But she's pretty graceful about this too — when Lauer asked if she still thought she married "a marvelous man," she explained that Edwards had once been "marvelous," and that she still admired many things about him, but that over time he'd changed into someone she could no longer be with. It's a painful statement to have to make on national TV, but Edwards managed to make it in a pretty generous way. Lauer's next question about co-parenting was a reminder that the Edwardses still have two young children, in addition to one grown one — and it's clear that Elizabeth Edwards doesn't want to bash their dad too badly.
Edwards also responded to criticisms of her in Game Change and Andrew Young's The Politician, saying "I never pretended to be perfect [...] but I hope I didn't seem to be a monster in any way." Given the turns her life has taken — her cancer's return, her husband's increasingly high-profile infidelity, Hunter's bizarre media appearances — it's perhaps no wonder that the media has painted Edwards in broad strokes, either as "St. Elizabeth," or, when the backlash hit, a crazy, blouse-rending harridan. But in her interview with Lauer, she came off not as a caricature but as a human being — someone perhaps still angry about her ex's actions and how they've affected her, but willing to move on and enjoy her remaining years as best she can. Who knows what her private face looks like, but in public she's doing a lot better than John, who according to The New Republic now likes to "joke about how young women flirt with him when he's out at restaurants." Elizabeth and John Edwards's daughter Cate has written about learning from her mother "how to continue to live your life on your own terms when it somehow becomes savaged by people you never invited into it." At least where public appearances are concerned, she seems like she has a pretty good role model.