PATSY R. BRUMFIELD: Edwards’ death should remind us of unknowns

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

We really don’t know public people. We think we do.
Usually, they’ve carefully crafted an image they want us to believe is who they are.
It’s not always Machiavellian.
Our 24/7 news cycle demands that someone churn out interesting tidbits as often as possible. Public people are the best place to go for material.
Elizabeth Edwards was one of those people.
The estranged wife of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, came into the U.S. limelight when he became John Kerry’s running-mate in 2004.
Before that, she was a mom, an attorney and a quiet advocate for good causes.
With her death Tuesday from breast cancer, she is being remembered in the most flattering of terms – self-sacrificing, painfully public, etc.
There rarely was a subject on which she wouldn’t speak publicly, including the crushing destruction of her family in the wake of her husband’s ultimately admitted affair with a campaign staffer, who bore his child.
In reflection, it seems like she just couldn’t stop herself from talking about everything she could think of.
In truth, perhaps she wanted to be the one who shaped what was said out there about herself.
One of this year’s hottest selling books, “Game Change,” closely examines the presidential campaign of 2008, especially the personalities of the main players – the Obamas, the McCains, the Palins, the Edwardses and others.
Elizabeth Edwards comes off looking like a screaming shrew, not the much-maligned, saintly pushing-against-the-tide woman of her two best-selling books.
It’s shocking, the picture that’s painted of her: a control freak, a woman who wants so badly for her husband to be the Democratic presidential nominee that she seems not to care that his infidelities and lies may be discovered and destroy the political party that could make him its flag-bearer.
That’s a lot to take in.
I’ve worked around some well-known Mississippi public officials for more than 20 years.
In my role now, as a reporter, I usually see them at their best, in that positive light they want written about for the rest of you to consume.
But there have been times when conditions caused these folks to show another side, and that could be pretty nasty and sometimes shocking at the depth of their political facades.
At one point, I worked in proximity – but did not work for – a public person, whom I observed first-hand to be a pathological liar. It seemed he actually enjoyed not telling the truth, and did so many times, I lost count.
Yet, there are some good-hearted people who have become public people.
In truth, none of us really know them.
We think we do.
I lament the passing of any of them, but it’s never wise to heap too much praise on the truly unknown.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.