The XX Factor

Elizabeth Edwards’s Destructive Obsession With Damage Control

The chyron at the bottom of this morning’s Today Show interview with Elizabeth Edwards was “Elizabeth Edwards Breaks Her Silence,” which seemed absurd to me, as it seemed like only yesterday that she was an ubiquitous presence on the morning and early-afternoon talk show circuit promoting her memoir Resilience , which came out in May 2009. Only in today’s insanely accelerated media cycle could a year away from Matt Lauer be construed as “silence,” and the Daily Beast’s Rebecca Dana picks up on the hypocrisy of Edwards’ media strategy . Our own Hanna Rosin described Edwards’ public persona as “passive aggressive ,” when Resilience first came out, and Dana pithily notes, “Edwards may be the most press-friendly press-hating jilted political spouse in history-a significant achievement in a crowded field. She is unmatched in both the relentlessness and vehemence of her image-rehabilitation campaign.”

Indeed, Edwards seems obsessed with rewriting her own legacy-a depressing fool’s errand from a woman who has been battling breast cancer for years and is very much aware of her own mortality. She says as much in the new afterword in the paperback version of Resilience (which she is currently out promoting), as well as on her Today Show appearance . “I want to reclaim who I am,” she tells Matt Lauer. “I’m not just a cuckolded wife,” she adds. In the new afterward to Resilience , she writes, “I wish I could be good enough now that I do not care what fabricated image of Elizabeth is in the spotlight. But I admit: I am not that good.”

Now the business of rehabilitating Elizabeth’s image has become a family affair, as her daughter Cate is set to write an essay that will appear in the new issue of People magazine out Friday. Cate writes about her mother, “There are the things she taught without words … [like] how to continue to live your life on your own terms when it somehow becomes savaged by people you never invited into it.” Though Cate is a grown woman who keeps her own counsel, it’s hard not to read her willingness to write this essay as part of a greater cynical media strategy meant to sell copies of the paperback, rather than as touching tribute to a dying mother. Edwards’ appearance on the Today Show is embedded below.