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John Edwards hits the speaking circuit: Can he repair his image?
Hey, Mark Sanford is back in Congress
 
John Edwards, standing with his daughter and parents, speaks to the press after his trial on May 31, 2012.
John Edwards, standing with his daughter and parents, speaks to the press after his trial on May 31, 2012. Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) is hitting the speaking circuit in June, just a year after his campaign corruption trial. Edwards was acquitted on one count of campaign finance fraud, but the jury deadlocked on several other charges related to his alleged use of campaign money to hide an extramarital affair — and his mistress' pregnancy — during his run for the presidency in 2008. Edwards has kept a low profile since the trial. Is this the beginning of his public comeback?

It's just one speaking gig — he is scheduled to appear June 6 at a private retreat in Orlando, Fla., for lawyers who are clients of the marketing firm PMP. But there's another sign that Edwards is slowly emerging from his self-imposed exile: A records check by the Associated Press found that Edwards had reactivated his license to practice law with the North Carolina State Bar. It had been inactive for more than a decade.

Sexually tinged scandals used to spell political death, but recent comebacks have led some commentators to at least entertain the possibility that Edwards could return to the spotlight.

"Mark Sanford is now a member of Congress two years after he stepped down as governor of South Carolina following a highly publicized extramarital affair," says Ben Wolfgang at The Washington Times. "Anthony Weiner appears poised to run for New York City mayor not even two years after scandalous photos of the ex-representative hit Twitter." So we shouldn't be surprised, Wolfgang says, that the similarly disgraced Edwards "is plotting his own comeback."

There is also the question of whether the public will have him back. Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly says Edwards may have agreed to this one speaking engagement — so far, he doesn't appear to have any others lined up — simply because he needs the money after all his legal troubles. "You do have to wonder, though..." Kilgore says, "if there's some slight glimmer of hope in the Son of a Mill Worker’s mind of becoming the ultimate Comeback Kid and resuming a public, if not political, life."

I'd imagine his skin is tough enough by now to endure endless ridicule, but the Court of Public Opinion is one tough venue, even for the guy once regarded as sort of the Wayne Gretzky of trial lawyers. I'm guessing a book, and then maybe a movie, would have to come first. [Washington Monthly]

Some people, however, think Edwards is beginning a determined effort at rehabilitation — and predict it will pay off for him, whether he deserves it or not. Mary Katherine Ham at Hot Air finds the prospect as inevitable as it is distasteful. "This guy. Go try to make things up with your children and leave everyone else alone," she says. "I guess they're counting on him being a draw, but yuck, why have him speak?"

Surely there are other prominent lawyers who could give a decent speech without having cheated on their cancer-stricken wives while using said family struggle and faux solidarity as a campaign feature or denying paternity of a child of the affair while having a sycophantic staffer fraudulently claim it instead? They're lawyers, but surely they could rustle up one who's not the lovechild of Elmer Gantry and Voldemort...

People always say I'm crazy when I say he could make a comeback, at the very least to some cush UNC Chair for Poverty Studies or some such nonsense. He's a Democrat, and he's not even a domestic terrorist. He'll be rehabilitated. It starts in June. [Hot Air]

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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