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Better to Gush than Hush

Susan Wise Bauer explains why Americans expect public contrition from leaders who play around in the bedroom.
The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin & Public Confession in America
by Susan Wise Bauer
Princeton: Princeton University Press, September 2008
352 pp., $26.95

Former presidential candidate John Edwards knows how to make a confession. As the story of his 2006 affair broke, he went on ABC News to answer for his actions. He was contrite, humble, and ready to take full responsibility for his behavior. He had asked God for forgiveness and apologized to the public. Despite his misdeeds, he positioned himself with the righteous as a crusader battling the demons of narcissism. Equally important, he made clear that he had no further aspirations for power. Always the populist, he told reporter Bob Woodruff that he wasn't sure he would ever return to politics. While putting the future of his career into the hands of the people, he left the door open for a rebound.

Edwards's profession meets all of the criteria for a perfect confession, according to Susan Wise Bauer's engaging The Art of the Public ...

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