On the heels of Elizabeth Edwards’ revelation in her new book that she wanted her husband to drop out of the race for the presidency after having an affair with videographer Rielle Hunter, George Stephanopoulos reported on Sunday that Edwards staffers had convened a strategy to "sabotage his campaign" if he won the Democratic nomination.
Onetime Edwards strategist Joe Trippi has since responded to that report, calling it "complete bullshit."
Trippi told CNN: "No one that I know had such a plan, I wasn’t involved in a plan like that, it didn’t exist, it’s a fantasy."
Trippi may be right, but I distinctly recall a conversation with an Edwards confidante at the Democratic Convention in August that lends some credence to the "sabotage strategy." I asked the Edwards insider–who asked not to be named–whether the staff knew about Edwards’ affair (and possible love child) and whether they had planned to do anything about it. "We would have prevented Edwards from becoming the nominee had he won Iowa," this person told me based on my recollection of the conversation, "because we believed some portion of the rumors to be true."
I remember being surprised at that revelation and finding the whole scenario somewhat implausible. Why wait until after Iowa? If longtime staffers knew about or suspected Edwards’ entanglements, shouldn’t they have acted long before it reached voting time?
I asked that same Edwards confidante yesterday whether such a "sabotage strategy" ever existed? The person replied: "To suggest there was a plan is too strong. There was concern that if Edwards were actually in a position to seriously be the nominee, then this stuff needed to be aired and dealt with. He couldn’t be the nominee without this dealt with in a real way." There was never an official conference call or the like, but such chatter did take place among Edwards campaign vets as the candidate picked up steam in Iowa in December. Prior to that point, it was assumed–even among some longtime supporters–that Edwards had little change of winning the nomination.
The Edwards staffers who discussed such a scenario figured "the problem would fix itself"–either Edwards would lose Iowa and drop out, or "if he was doing well, he’d get a lot more scrutiny and the press would either figure it out or not."
It’s possible, in the end, that some people in the Edwards campaign knew about or suspected the affair and were prepared to do something about it, and others were kept in the dark or didn’t take part in such conversations.
Melissa Harris-Lacewell makes a good point in her latest Notion blog; it’s strange that people are blaming Elizabeth for opening old wounds when her husband’s extraordinary carelessness and selfishness created this problem in the first place.