The Edwards decision

It’s not pleasant to say it, but I can’t see how his family situation would allow him to give the Presidency his full attention.

This is going to be an uncomfortable post, so let me start with some disclaimers:

1. I don’t think pundits have any business lecturing politicians about how to lead their private lives.

2. I don’t think anybody has any business lecturing anyone else on how to deal with a fatal disease.

3. I think Elizabeth and John Edwards are both displaying admirable fortitude in the face of horrible fortune.

4. I admire (what I know about) John Edwards. I think he’d be a strong candidate and a good President.

All of that said, Edwards’s decision to stay in the race for President strikes me as problematic.

The numbers on Stage IV breast cancer are brutal: it’s unlikely that Elizabeth Edwards would survive until the end of her husband’s first term. As the husband of a woman dying a painful death (the cancer has spread to bone, and bone pain can be horrible), as a grieving widower, and as a single parent of two young adolescents, he couldn’t give his job his undivided attention: unless he had a heart of stone, which he obviously doesn’t.

Whether running for President, or becoming President, would be good for John Edwards or his family is their business, and I don’t think anyone else should second-guess what is clearly a family choice. But whether he could do the job is our business. I think there’s room for doubt.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: