The estranged wife of Senator John Edwards, the one-time presidential candidate, voiced the hope yesterday that one day she might again be on the public stage for reasons other being the "cuckolded wife".
Whether or not most Americans are sated with the slow disintegration of the life of Elizabeth Edwards is open to question. She apparently thinks not. Yesterday she appeared on NBC in the morning and CNN at night to talk about the piled-up miseries – and to promote the paperback version of her best-selling book, Resilience.
If turning off the television is more difficult than it should be, it is perhaps because this is the first time we have heard directly from Mrs Edwards since she announced in January that after 32 years of marriage she was leaving the senator, who spent part of his 2007-08 bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination carrying on with a blonde videographer called Rielle Hunter. The scandal ended his campaign.
Mrs Edwards, who is suffering from stage-four breast cancer and now has tumours in her legs, skull and spine, said she keeps feelings of bitterness towards John at bay for the sake of their children, not least because it is him on "whom they are going to have to rely if my disease takes a bad turn". He is a "marvellous man", she went on, but "no longer the person I married".
Of her disease, she is switching to a new chemotherapy regime and is focus-ed, as she recounts in a new epilogue to her book, on having "eight more years" of life. Asked how she copes with the risk that may not happen, she said, "I don't let my head go to that place. You have to keep what you want in view always."
And she would like to get back to thinking about politics, if not actually competing in it. "I do still need to break through the media-imposed image. I'm not just the cuckolded wife. I hope the next time I'm on television, it's to talk about some policy I really care about."
Mrs Edwards is releasing the new epilogue and returning to the interview chair – she also spoke to People magazine this week – at a time when her image has taken a battering from two books, including one written by a former aide to her husband, Andrew Young, that depict her as cold and controlling. "It's not that he didn't have a good story to tell," she said of Young's memoir, The Politician. "But it's so filled with lies that I don't see it as having any bearing on the truth, particularly in respect to me."
She also spoke poignantly of seeing "that woman" – Rielle Hunter – being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. "This person is so unlike me. It's hard to imagine the same person could marry me and be attracted to that woman as well."
The epilogue includes the admission that for months Mrs Edwards thought the liaison between them had only been a one-night stand. Even after she finally got the whole picture, it took her until December 2009 to walk away.
"Finally I realised we'd just come so far down this road I wasn't ever going to find a place where – I hate to talk about myself in the third person – Elizabeth existed anymore. I was going to be entirely reactive; I wanted to be present in the remainder of my life."