Democrat John Edwards and Republican Newt Gingrich have equal morals. Each betrayed a cancer-ridden wife. (Maybe Gingrich is twice as immoral, because he betrayed two wives.) Both deserve contempt.
But there's a disturbing possibility regarding Edwards: He might be sent to prison just because jurors feel disgust for his philandering -- and skirt-chasing isn't illegal.
Edwards is charged with using "campaign donations" to hush his pregnant mistress and keep her out of sight during the 2008 presidential race. But the money wasn't actual campaign funds, and much of it was given after Edwards dropped out of the 2008 contest.
Two longtime chums of Edwards, both rich, provided nearly $1 million. They didn't give it to Edwards or his campaign committee. Instead, they sent it to third parties, who aided the mistress and her new baby.
Edwards quit his presidential run in January 2008, but the payments continued through 2008 into 2009. It's hard to see how they can be called campaign donations -- but that's what federal prosecutors claim in the current Edwards trial. He's accused of misusing campaign money.
Make no mistake, Edwards is a creep. He lied repeatedly to hide his marital infidelity. Most Americans are sick of him, and scorn him. But it isn't a crime to be a creep. There's no such thing as felonious creephood.
The witty and erudite National Review, which was created by the late conservative intellectual William Buckley Jr., came to the defense of liberal Edwards -- sort of. It called him "one of the most loathsome characters in American politics" and "a preening, moralizing fraud," adding: "If being a louse were a crime, John Edwards would hang for it." But the magazine added:
"Because none of the money went to the campaign, and none of the money went for campaign expenses -- inasmuch as maintaining a mistress is not a campaign expense -- it is difficult to see why this should be prosecuted as a campaign-finance violation ... . We have had enough unseemliness associated with Edwards without adding a questionable prosecution to the catalog."
If jurors convict Edwards of misspending campaign funds, just because his wife-betrayal and lying turn their stomachs, it may be a misapplication of justice.