Leading article: All-American rise and fall

It's rarely the deed, mostly the cover-up. And so it was with one-time trial lawyer, one-time Senator, two-time presidential hopeful and two-timing husband and father. Rarely was the term "love rat" more merited than by John Edwards, whose wife was even then being treated for cancer.

He denied and denied he was romancing a campaign worker, then denied and denied she had borne his child, even deputing someone else to claim paternity. It all came to grief in the most spectacular way, as so often in American political society, and now the team that produced The West Wing plans to take it to Hollywood; just the latest tragic hero's fate to be committed to the silver screen.

As we say, it's less the deed than the cover-up. Which is why – unless you are a fading would-be presidential candidate in a conservative US state – non-denial in this day and age is usually preferable. After a few adverse headlines, it all goes away, and you probably won't have to relive it all on celluloid. John Edwards's is a vintage American saga to be savoured.

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