During today’s press conference, Edwards made a very brave comment about not “cowering in a corner.” At least it seemed brave when I first heard it.

Thinking it over, what I found interesting was his characterization of the challenge he and Elizabeth face as an “either/or” dilemma — either we cower in a corner or we go on with our lives acting as if nothing has changed. There might be some other approach somewhere between those two extremes.

As personal crises often do, this medical crisis gives us some insight into how John Edwards thinks. It is hard not to admire his optimistic, “we can beat it” attitude. But his self-imposed choices are very limiting, and very lawyerly. As a trial lawyer, he is accustomed to thinking in terms of winners and losers. It is always “either/or.” As George Bush has demonstrated, we need a president who is both principled and has the capacity for flexible thinking, i.e. being open-minded to a range of possible approaches and solutions.

What I find hard to accept in Edwards’ comments today is that “not cowering in a corner” necessarily means continuing his run for the presidency. It could mean something else, perhaps staying closer to home, enjoying more personal time together, giving each other the love and support they both need.

Ultimately it is their marriage, their lives, their choice to make. But Edwards is also a public figure running for president, so obviously that changes things. As voters it is not unreasonable for us to wonder what would happen if he became president and Elizabeth did not get better. How would her illness affect him and his ability to act as president? More importantly, how will his “either/or” way of thinking serve him — and us — in a national crisis?

I sincerely hope for the best for both of them.

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