27 January 2008

Enough Already

I’m not much to talk politics on this blog, but I have to get this off my chest: John Edwards should not be running for president.

Not because he won’t win, even though I don’t think he will. And not because he doesn’t have great things to say, because he does.

Here’s the thing: His wife is sick. Very sick. She might be doing great now, feeling fine, tolerating the treatments for her breast cancer that has recurred and spread to her bones. That’s not going to last forever, though. Senator Edwards should be focused on spending time with his wife now, while she still feels so good. Hopefully she will continue to feel great for years. All the better. But no matter how long Mrs. Edwards should live and feel great, she should be the senator’s top priority right now.

There are those who will say that the campaign motivates the Edwards family, gives them something to focus on besides cancer. I get that. A cancer diagnosis—even a terminal one such as Mrs. Edwards’—is not a reason to stop life as normal. Given how John and I chose to live the cancer-ridden years of his life, I’d be the last person to tell anyone to stop going on with the stuff of life.

But the campaign trail is not normal, not to mention life as Commander in Chief. The stress! The pressure! It’s beyond the usual day-to-day. Should Senator Edwards win, forgive me, but I don’t want someone in office who is splitting his mental energy between his wife’s illness and running our country. And I want the kind of person in office who would choose to spend the bulk of his or her mental energy on his or her spouse in this situation.

We can’t predict the future. Any one of us could get killed in a car crash tomorrow. Mrs. Edwards could live long enough for the cure to cancer to finally be found. But precisely because we can’t predict the future, Senator Edwards should not have his hat in the ring. His wife’s illness is capital-s Serious, and his candidacy sends the message that it’s not. And to me, that’s just plain capital-w Wrong.

For what seems to me to be a fairly call-a-spade-a-spade look at the gravity of Mrs. Edwards’ condition, see this article from Time.

48 comments:

savorybeans said...

I agree with you, but would you have felt this way if you hadn't gone through what you've gone through?
I also think she is in no small part steering this ship. She believes in him, she believes in his message and his leadership and this is what she wants as much as he does. I don't consider him selfish. I'm sure there have been many thoughtful conversations, and I have no doubt she has made it clear this is what she wants. There is no way to know how this is going to go. I've known someone who had the same cancer your husband did who died 6 weeks after diagnosis. I've known someone else whose cancer metasticized in her intestines who lived 10 high quality years.
They already experienced the unbrearable when they lost their son. Perhaps they think the sacrifice is worth it. I do think they are patriotic people, and that plays a part.
As a family, I think they lose a lot with all the chaos and scrutiny. If their small children only have a short time with their mother, they deserve all of her attention. It is hard to make kids understand a loss in the name of what their parents perceive as a greater good.

Kim said...

I have to respectfully disagree. First, let me say I have been reading your blog for some time now and being the mother of two small children myself I know how trying it can be with two sets of hands to help and I commend you for the incredible parenting you are doing with the twins. I check in all the time to see how you all are doing. Second, I also have had cancer rear it's ugly head in my family as well so I know how devastating it can be. There was a time I would have been quick to judge Senator Edwards but not now. My philosophy is more to each his own since no one can really know what another person's life is like unless they have lived it. I am sure there are people that have judged my life and yours as well but no one has walked in either of our shoes. Just my thoughts-

Karen said...

I am sorry, but I have to disagree with you. I think that it a very personal decision that you and I cannot possibly make for his family. Maybe we would not do the same thing in his position, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't.

This reminds me a conversation I had with my sister today. Our single cousin in just started IVF procedures and my sister was very vocal that she should not be doing it as she is unmarried (and unemployed at the time). But sometimes we have to step back and let other people make their own decisions without judgment.

Becca said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and agree with you. I agree with what others have said about it being a personal choice and that it may be her dream for him to run. But I still agree with you. They should be together as a family.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading your blog and your opinions. On this particular matter however, I would also have to respectfully disagree. Although I do not have children I am the daughter of a wonderful woman who like Elizabeth Edwards has metastasized breast cancer. Cancer, like the one Mrs. Edwards has, is extremely manageable and women who have breast cancer that has only metastasized to their bones have a longer survival rate than those who have cancer in soft tissue. Moreover, metastasized breast cancer is considered a chronic illness, not a terminal one and is treated as such. As the article from Time stated many of the statistics on Mestastic breast cancer are outdated re: survival rate and there are many more woman surviving much longer than the 2-3 year median. As you know from your own experience each person with cancer chooses to live whatever time they might have differently, Elizabeth Edwards has chosen her path with much thought and determination and I deeply respect that.

Lisa said...

I am going to go ahead and agree with you, Snick. And what's interesting is that before I found your blog and read your story, I was in the 'to each his own' camp on whether or not John Edwards should run. Better than many of us, I think you have a real understanding of what this is like. I've read the other comments thus far, and they make some good points. But ultimately, her disease is terminal, and it's not even a question of 'we never know' and she might have five, ten years. It's what happens in those ten years. It's absorbing the news that this drug or that no longer works, or that this physiological indicator or that is out of whack so THIS drug can't be used. It's dealing with how the rest of the family is dealing with it. It's all that stuff you unfortunately know so well. Both the presidency and her health are so important, but the nature of her disease is serious. This isn't squamous cell skin cancer, or a melanoma that was caught early. It's terminal and she will not survive it, and there is no way that I see that both the presidency and her health can be separated. One will almost certainly affect the other.

I know this blog is for you, about you, but it has helped me in my own relationship with my fiance. I remember reading through your archives, tears pouring down my face, thinking how friggin' lucky I was and vowing never to take what *I* had for granted. And since that time I haven't. Whenever life's little annoyances crop up between fiance and me, I think of *you* and get some instant perspective. But as helpful as this is, I so wish it wasn't so.

wkmtca said...

i think john and his wife have the right to live their life the way they choose. i think it is at her insistence that he is running because she cares so much for what has happened to this country under the moron that is president now. and as for edwards splitting his mental energy between running the country and his wifes health we will still have someone with more mental energy running the country than we have now with bush's full mental energy on it...if he had any mental energy anyway.

Snickollet said...

Yes, of course it is his choice, his family's choice, and most certainly not mine. But in making the choice he made, he lost any chance he had at my vote.

babybound said...

I hear you sister. I completely agree that when your spouse is going through something that serious, its time to reprioritize.

We are all faced with life decisions we never saw coming. Its part of being a team.

Of course you have to live life as usual, however, you don't need to add gigantic stresses that will seem so foolish if something were to happen to the people you love. If something was to happen to Mrs. Edwards - God forbid - is John Edwards going to still feel he is doing the right thing? And if so, is this the man we want running our country??! Seems a bit selfish to me.

Arwen said...

I have to disagree as well. I think you have a unique perspective, however, there are two points I would like you to consider. 1) From what I understand (from Elizabeth's blogs and such that I receive from her), she refused to allow him to withdraw from the race. 2.) It is her dream to see him president. Should she give up her dreams because she is sick?

Anonymous said...

And I would be happy to say to Mrs. Edwards' face, "Bullshit." I would think MUCH more highly of Edwards for future races if he had pulled out. Now I think he's an ass. Who is not going to win, btw.

Maybe they are sort of in denial- have they ever cared day to day for someone who is dying of cancer? Maybe not. I have and I don't think someone who has two kids at home and a spouse with this diagnosis should be running the country. What if their mother dies while he's in office? The President is working 18 hour days, people. That's why they age so rapidly in office. Who will the kids grieve with? Their nannies?

Getting hit by a bus and dying of cancer are two entirely different things. It's not a justification for continuing to campaign as she looks sicker and sicker.

Amy said...

Not reading the other comments I have to say I can see the other side. (Please note I am Canadian and have little idea of any of the candidates and their promises.)

That said, I have read a few articles on Mrs. Edwards and she seems determined her husband follow his dreams. I can respect that.

I am sure she does not want her condition to effect his life any more than it has to. I am sure they have talked this subject between each other and no doubt until they were both blue in the face.

I remember reading a blog where the wife was facing terminal breast cancer and found she was pregnant. She decided to go ahead with the pregnancy deciding cancer was NOT going to take BOTH of them down. Baby boy survived and mother died a year after.

Her priority that those she loved should live, even if she would not. I fully respect the choices the Edwards have made.

thrice said...

Previously, I agreed, but now I respectively disagree after reading a comment left by Ms. Edwards on Tash's blog:

"Elizabeth Edwards said...

I am so very sorry about Maddy. For your family's loss and for her loss of life with a loving family.

I have often described the death of a child in this way: in life we have a blackboard on which we write all the things we are doing -- our jobs, coaching soccer, working at Goodwill, going to basketball games, whatever. And the board is full, so when the next thing comes along, we find a corner or the board to add a computer class or a space between other things for book club or sewing Halloween costumes. It is full and lively and seemingly all important.

And then your child dies, and all the things that were so important that you worked to squeeze them in? Well, they are all erased. And you are left with an empty blackboard. Everything you thought was important was not. And the next time you write something on the board, you are very, very careful about what it is. Your choices about what to do and how to do it are so much more deliberate. Doing something that is so patently important as public service -- whatever your politics -- well, that seems like an easy call. That is worth some of the space. And putting something on the board, well, it allows you -- in your words -- to function another day. And each day that you find something else worthy of the board makes it a little easier to put one foot in front of the other. And each day you functioned the day before makes it easier to function again. Are there still bad moments, even bad days nearly twelve years later? Sadly, there are. But they are not as frequent and they don't happen in that same emptiness you feel today. Now when they happen, we can turn to something that we have written, something worthy of our time, of his parents' time and we can function through that pain. As you will -- not without Maddy, but with Maddy not as a living, breathing daughter but as an inspiration and a helper to decide what is worthy of your blackboard.

Elizabeth Edwards"

Source:http://awfulbutfunctioning.blogspot.com/2007/12/dead-kids-of-presidents.html

Julia said...

Thrice beat me to it-- I was also going to say that after reading Elizabeth's take on life after the death of their son, I see why they decided to keep running, and I am not going to be judging them for it. Even if I am pretty sure I would be voting for a different decision for my own family.
I like what he has to say much more than the other two. That might be the reason the other two have appropriated a lot of his campaign themes-- themes he had been talking about for the last three years, and they seem to have woken up to several weeks ago.

Robin J. said...

I have thought many times about Edwards' campaign exactly as you have expressed. Personally, I cannot imagine placing the presidency ahead of family and the time they have left, no matter the length.

Janice said...

I agree Snick. If he loves his wife at all, his mind cannot fully be on his job as President as she fights her disease. While noone knows the immediate outcome of her treatments, Metasticized Cancer is a deadly disease. While it may be her wish that he continue, I would think it would not be in our country's best interest for our President to meet with world leaders when his mind is on a desperatly ill spouse. I have nothing against John Edwards. I would feel this way about anyone running for our Nations highest office. Right now, his place is with his wife. I have had cancer. I've been there...

buddha_girl said...

I think since we're not in the Edwards family it's easier for us to be more objective and see the bigger picture.

After reading Elizabeth's book, Saving Graces, along with the update about her recurrance, I think I understand why they decided to run again this year.

In the book, she says that, originally, John didn't want to run but that she was adamant that he look at the big picture - she felt strongly that he is an advocate for middle America and can bring about change for the people experiencing the biggest hardships right now.

Would I make the same decision? Likely not.

And I do agree with you that the thought of a President dealing with the everyday in addition to his wife dying isn't the most appealing thought. However, I think running is what's helping them get through what's going to be an incredible loss for their family.

Pantheist Mom said...

What I believe is that this campaign IS their way of doing something together. It has so long been their dream to move their ideas for this country to reality and they both believe SO strongly in what they can do for the U.S.. They also function very much as a team. I think that in their case, public service is who they are, not something they simply do. I cannot understand completely, because while I adore my job, it is still ultimately just my job. For the Edwards, public service is their LIFE. It is something they cannot fathom cutting away from themselves.

It would be truly horrible for her to go through the end stages of dying while he was in office. But we've had presidents temporarily incapacitated before and the country would not suffer.

I love the Edwards and wish I could vote for him. Unfortunately, it looks like by the time the primary comes to my state, he'll be completely out of it.

cobblestone said...

Ok Snick, here is my addition {oh I wish I had time to read all the comments right now}.

How many times is a widow{er} told to not make any big decisions in the first year? What is being being president other than one big decision after another.

If as a widow I couldn't "be trusted" to decide if I should sell my own car how can I vote for a man who will {alas} likely be heartbroken and lonely while trying to decide the fate of an economic package to Imaginarycountrystan?

But here is a question for ya - what if he gets the VP nod again?

Melissa in TN said...

I haven't read all the comments, so if this is a duplication, I'm sorry. I have heard on the radio that she is the one who wants this. I don't know if that is right or not, though.

I agree with you. They should be spending their time together doing things besides campaigning.

I really enjoy your blog. Congrats on your new job.

CJ said...

And I thought I was the only one. Everytime I say the same thing to the people I work with, I get "but it's their decision..." I agree with everyone who has already said, 'how can he BE president and BE the husband of a dying woman and do justice to both'? He can't.

Yankee T said...

I don't believe that he should not be running if that's what he and she have decided together, however, I do believe that to do a good job as president AND as husband of a chronically ill person would be impossible, and I would put being the husband of a chronically ill person first. But that's just me. He's not going to win anyway, I don't believe, so there's not much fear.

yatima said...

You know what I wish? I wish I could cure her magically. And THEN, then I wish that SHE would run. Because John Edwards is fine and all, but Elizabeth Edwards is AWESOME.

I would also bring your John back to life.

But I can't, and that sucks. All the other choices suck.

Jessica said...

I completely agree with you and my feelings have nothing to do with his politicals. For me, it's not just the trivializing the illness or the quality time now issue either. Those are presonal choices, and while I don't agree with his personal choices they are ot the core problem with his candidacy. It's more this issue for me--if he is elected there is a very good chance that his wife will die while he is in office. That would be a tragedy, and I cannot comprehend how you could undergo a personal tragedy of that magnitude and still have the mental health capacity to be the president of the United States. President is not a job you take time off from to grieve. Our country can't afford to elect someone whose chance of being so traumatized is so high.

I have a similar concern about John McCain. I think he is a hero and his actions while serving our country in Vietnam command nothing but my highest respect. However, as my father, who is a highly decorated combat veteran of the same war noted, you can't go through an experience like that and ever be completely sane again. There is no way that being a prisoner of war for so long didn't psychologically scar him, and I don't think our country deserves someone who is psycologically hurt as a President.

Anonymous said...

I see your point, I really do BUT, is it really anyone's place to judge? What if someone had said you shouldn't have children because your husband had terminal cancer? Would that be their right to impose on your family? Your children are turning out just wonderfully and from reading your journal it's obvious you don't regret that choice at all. Did someone have the right to say you need to focus on the time you have with your husband and not have children? As long as the Edwards family is on the same page with things I think it's their right. Maybe seeing her husband make it or do his best trying is something she wants to live to see? I think it's their choice, not ours. I hope this doesn't come across as insensitive but, I think you went ahead and lived life even with cancer staring back at you and your dh, shouldn't everyone have that right? I'd think they'd have your full support actually and I was kind've surprised that you were so against him running.

Snickollet said...

Anon-

Of course this is not my decision to make. It is John and Elizabeth Edwards'.

I've made plenty of choices that other people don't agree with, including the one to have kids while John was terminally ill. I heard about that one from a number of people.

But I'm not trying to, oh, RUN THE UNITED STATES. The number of people that my decisions--any of them--touch is not nearly as staggering as the number of people who would be touched by the decisions of Senator Edwards were he to win the presidency. And I just can't trust anyone--especially someone in as committed, loving, and supportive a relationship as the Edwards' seem to have--to run our nation while reserving the appropriate mental energy for his wife's condition. Much less if she were to die while he was in office. Could he do it? Probably. But I don't think he'd do the job of president of the job of caretaker very well while trying to do both. And for that reason alone, I won't even consider voting for him.

Anonymous said...

You're not the only who is of this opinion. Hubby and I just talked of the same thing last week.

electriclady said...

This is such an interesting discussion. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer shortly before my husband and I started dating. I know he struggled a lot with whether he should put things on hold to be with his mother in her "last days." Eight years later, she is still very much here, against all odds. She is living with cancer, and while it is not always easy for her, it does not consume all the resources and attention of the family--far from it.

We can debate all day about whether or not the Edwardses "should" have made the decision they did (and I do believe it was very much a mutual decision). They decided that running for President is what they wanted to do and that this was the best decision for their family, and they have every right to do so, as much as some may think it is wrong.

On the other hand, you as a voter have every right to decide that you won't vote for him based on this. I won't be voting for Edwards for other reasons, but I do admire Elizabeth Edwards greatly for her commitment to making people's lives better.

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

Great blog topic. I, for one, will be voting for Edwards, if he makes it that far.

Anne K. said...

Snick, I'm glad to say I agree with you - and you're the first person I've run across who's been willing to say so. I have felt queasy about this ever since they announced her latest prognosis. I know this decision is theirs to make, but in the back of my mind it really does bother me -- and makes me think "is he so arrogant that he thinks he MUST go ahead and run, despite what's happening to his children's mother?" Other political issues may have more gravity in the scheme of things, and if all things were equal I might be able to see past this, but it does bother me. Thanks for bringing up a fascinating topic.

Crimson Rambler said...

What a lot of thoughtful, thoughtful people read your blog!

mel said...

I cannot imagine that Elizabeth Edwards would do anything but encourage her husband to run, what wife wants to stand in front of a husband's life dream? On the other hand I think that regardless of her wishes he should have stopped campaigning. I realize that as the president his family cannot come first, but now as a private citizen, he can and should do that. The presidency will still be here in 4 years, unfortunately his wife may not.

teki said...

I completely agree with you. He also lost my vote due to his choice to run while she is dying of cancer. It just rubs me the wrong way. Sounds like I'm not the only one either.

Anonymous said...

First of all Elizabeth is not dying and I'm fairly certain that she does not see herself as a dying person. There is a difference between a chronic illness, one does not know how long one will live although it most likely limit your life span and a terminal illness, whereas you will die within 6months, a year etc. Moreover, should Abraham Lincoln whose wife dealt with a debilitating mental illness, not have run for president, what about Harding or Hoover or Ford whose wives all had extremely serious illnesses while they were in office. Were they somehow less of Presidents because of their spouses’ illnesses?

mlg said...

I agree with you snick, for your reason and a very different reason. Many folks would say it is a personal choice, a family choice. That is all well and good for me and JR or for you and John, but this man is running to be the PRESIDENT. As in the leader of our country. How can anyone go about being the president if their wife is sick and dying. How can anyone focus on Iraq/Darfur/taxes/recession when they are in the midst of losing a spouse. Even if he is physically talking to the prime minister of Englamd, his head would be with his wife and children. When you decide to be the president of our country, it pretty much has to be your priority. Not that you have to give up your family, but certainly when there are things that will take your focus (and your wife being ill or dying certainly should) then you need to realize you can't give a job as gargantuan as being the president of the united states.

Kady said...

If I was an Edwards supporter, I'm not sure if I would have been affected by his decision to continue running in the face of his wife's illness. On the one hand, I have absolutely no problem with McCain's canidacy (except the obvious one of him being a Republican) despite my husband's contention (similar to commenter above) that a POW should not have his finger on the buton. On the other hand, what Elizabeth is going through is so incomprehensibly huge, and so present. How can you even realistically plan for it?

And no one has brought up the fact that they have two rather young children. If Mrs. Edwards was not to survive through one (or two) terms, what would Senator Edwards do about his children's care? And here, Snick, I think you have a lot to say. How can he be the single parent of two young kids and be President at the same time?

Anonymous said...

I disagree. It is their decision, and something every voter will have to consider.

The political life may not seem normal to us, but it is to them - they've been doing it a long time.

I'm really surprised given the decisions you made that you'd question someone else's.

Angela said...

I definitely think this is something that only the Edwards get to decide--and the rest of us judging be damned--but I don't see how I could ever make the same decision that they did. I am definitely not enough of a superperson to be able to care for an ailing wife, father my children, and run the biggest superpower all at the same time. I don't think anyone can. And something's gotta give....

Anonymous said...

I would not withold my vote for a canidate based on how I think their family should handle cancer.

This is a couple who endured the death of their son. I think they are well aware of their own coping abilities and limitations.

Kathleen

Anonymous said...

I want to add that as the spouse of a veteran of two combat tours, I find the whole "war leaves you unfit to lead a nation" line of thinking very offensive.

I can't even discuss this further.

Kathleen

Anonymous said...

What an interesting discussion! I'm not sure how I feel about him running, but I do have to respectfully comment about one of your replies. You mention its different for you to be a single parent to young children because you are not trying to run the country and your decisions don't touch as many people. However you are running a home and your decisions touch the most important people - your children. Public life is all the Edwards family knows and they are the best judge of what they can handle, just as you knew what you could handle.

Nina said...

Amen, sister. I completely agree. It has bothered me since her relapse was publicized. it's just wrong.

Oh and I mailed the mittens today.

(Sorry - got distracted and didn't get to the post office).

Liz said...

Personally I'm fine with a person whose spouse has a chronic and/or terminal illness running for President. Similarly, I don't thinking having been a POW should rule someone out of running.

Obviously such experiences matter but I don't think they are ALL that matters.

But, anyway, the point I really wanted to make was that it seems very likely to me that both John and Elizabeth Edwards know that his campaign is/was a long-shot. But, by staying in the race as long as possible he has managed to keep particular issues such as his focus on poverty in the news.

Now I'm sure if he had emerged as the front-runner he would have gone with it...But, nonetheless, perhaps his campaign has been more about shaping the conversation than about actually achieving the presidency...

Heather said...

Many very interesting comments. I'm pretty neutral on this issue, and it may be moot because the Washington Post is saying that he is withdrawing tonight, but I just wanted to respond to the commenter about him potentially being a single-parent President.

First, besides that being a lot of ifs (if he's elected, if she dies during the term), I seriously doubt that he would be raising those kids on his own like Snick is doing. He'd have tons of help to care for them. And regardless, no president of this country is raising their children. They simply don't have time -- they have a different breed of fatherless (or maybe one day, motherless) children. Anyone really think Bush was involved in his twins' dating lives when they were at the white house? Or that Clinton helped Chelsea fill out college applications? That JFK played with his kids outside of a few photo ops? This is an entirely different life that they've signed up for, and I would bet it just doesn't involve much vomit-cleanup/doctor's visits/tooth fairy visits/science fair projects/etc.

maryschoi said...

yes, I heard on NPR this morning that he is withdrawing.

Wordgirl said...

You know -- my husband and I argued about this very thing...and G. says exactly what you say here...

NinaLindy said...

I totally agree. I have been thinking it all along...( BE WITH YOUR FAMILY, MAN!!!)I feel relief that he is out of the race now.

Bubbles said...

I'm kinda late on this (I just found your blog today, 2/16/08, and have been catching up on your story)...anyway, I agree with you on this. I have never been in a situation like that but I said something similar to my mother when we were discussing candidates-I said John Edwards should be focusing on his wife right now, and she disagreed with me...but if I were in her place, I would feel rather abandoned if my husband was pursuing his political dream (or anything that would take up a great deal of his time) instead of spending whatever time he could with me.