Now that a North Carolina jury has ruled that former Sen. John Edwards is not a crook, at least in terms of misusing campaign contributions, he is free to go on conning his fellow citizens that he remains an instrument of The Almighty to serve the public good, in his fashion.
Mr. Edwards, on the steps of the federal courthouse in Greensboro immediately after his acquittal on one charge of political corruption, offered a mea culpa for his unspecified "sins" and added: "I don't think God is through with me. I really believe he still thinks there's some good things I can do."
Before then, however, Mr. Edwards will have to hope to God prosecutors won't decide to retry him on the five other deadlocked counts related to the sordid pulp-magazine-quality saga of hidden infidelity, which resulted in the judge declaring mistrial.
The immediate consensus of lawyers following the circus seemed to be that if the case on the remaining counts could not be made the first time around, a rerun would turn out no differently.
In any event, the ever-sincere and boyish Mr. Edwards took the occasion to express his commitment to the little girl he fathered in his relationship with a single woman he tried mightily to hide from his wife, Elizabeth, then dying of cancer and now deceased. He mentioned the child, "my precious Quinn, who I love more than any of you could imagine," but had nothing to say about her mother, the video photographer who caught his eye during his failed 2008 presidential campaign.
Mr. Edwards also suggested he intended to resume the work with poor and disadvantaged children, for which he won his original fame as a courtroom lawyer and millions for wronged clients in disabling accidents, and for himself in the process. While still in his first Senate term, he embarked on a long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and was so impressive that Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts chose him as his running mate.
During the runup to the Democratic precinct caucuses in Iowa, Mr. Edwards charmed the pants off the local farmers in small rural towns with his earnest recitals of torn and troubled lives repaired by his smooth yet folksy manner. He made those pitches before juries considering much more heart-rending tales of corporate ripoffs than his own personal soap opera just concluded in Greensboro.
The Edwards act on the 2004 campaign trail was electric from the start, and he finished a surprising second in the Iowa caucuses. But as a running mate for Mr. Kerry, Mr. Edwards was unable to provide enough additional energy to put the Democratic ticket into office against incumbents George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Mr. Edwards's celebrity by now did, however, provide him enough basis for launching a second presidential bid in 2008, producing the personal calamities that ensued.
Caught in the middle of the tight Democratic competition that year between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Edwards' earlier magic failed him. He took to dragging some of his clients with the saddest stories to tell onto the campaign trail as witnesses to his Robin Hood services in their behalf, and to his sterling character, as they saw it in him.
Through it all, a growing ruthlessness began to peek out from behind his goody-two-shoes sincerity, causing some veteran Democratic political consultants sometimes associated with him to bail out, telling stories of the golden couple -- John and Elizabeth -- and their common hunger for political glory. But that was all before the secret side of John became public, for all his efforts to keep it from Elizabeth and the voters.
Another political southerner, the late Republican consultant/hatchet man Lee Atwater, famously liked to say: "If you can fake sincerity, you have it made." John Edwards succeeded at it for quite a while, but he will have a tougher time doing so from now on, as he attempts to deliver on his professed belief that God "still thinks there some good things I can do."
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption" (William Morrow). His email is email@example.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun