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Edwards escapes ... but only under the law

The acquittal on one count, involving alleged illegal contributions in 2003, and hung jury on five others, is a partial victory for John Edwards. At least under the law.

That being said, the moral defeat is indelible for Mr. Edwards. When he was involved in this conduct he was trying to be president of the United States. Had he succeeded, did he believe this information would never come out? When he tried to become the VP nominee, same question.

I can forgive -- and have forgiven -- Mr. Edwards -- he has suffered and apologized and gone through tremendous grief in losing his wonderful wife. He has my sympathy. But he must know that the verdict of history -- that he pursued the presidency, competing against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- knowing about his private conduct -- cannot and should not be kind. The judgment that the information on his conduct, relationship, and fatherhood of a child would not ultimately come out and be publicly known, is beyond poor. It is unfathomable.

And for me, the verdict is not surprising -- this is and always was a difficult case for the government to win. But the question remains for Mr. Edwards: given your self-absorption in your race for the presidency, is there a reasonable basis to believe one of your primary motivations for raising this money was to get elected president?

I hope the government doesn't proceed to re-try the case. Mr. Edwards and his children have suffered enough.

Now I hope that Mr. Edwards some day will explain to fellow Democrats:  D did you really believe when you ran for president in 2007-08, that your conduct would remain a secret? If so, why? If not, why did you insist on staying in the race?

Lanny Davis, a Washington attorney and principal in the firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, specializing in legal crisis management and dispute resolution, served as President Clinton’s special counsel from 1996-98 and as a member of President Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board from 2006-07. He currently serves as special counsel to Dilworth Paxson and is the author of the new book, "Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping With Crises in Business, Politics, and Life," (Simon & Schuster March 2013). Follow him on Twitter at @LannyDavis.