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John Edwards on trial, accused of using nearly a million dollars in campaign funds to hide an affair. Is he a cad or a criminal? Should he be facing up to 30 years in jail?

In this April 12, 2012, file photo, former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. John Edwards arrives outside federal court following a lunch break in Greensboro, N.C., during jury selection in his criminal trial on alleged campaign finance violations. (AP)
In this April 12, 2012, file photo, former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. John Edwards arrives outside federal court following a lunch break in Greensboro, N.C., during jury selection in his criminal trial on alleged campaign finance violations. (AP)

The trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards going on now in North Carolina is hard to watch.  The testimony is so sad.  So tawdry.  A dying and deeply betrayed wife.  A hidden mistress and daughter.  A million dollars, nearly, sloshing around to keep them out of sight.  The whole thing makes you want to say “no” and “wrong.”

But should it put John Edwards in prison for maybe 30 years?   We want accountability on campaign spending.  But when the personal and political get so twisted, do we want to criminalize a run for high office?

This hour, On Point:  John Edwards on trial.
-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Hampton Dellinger, litigation partner with Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson. He is also a legal analyst for MSNBC and the former state deputy Attorney General in North Carolina.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Walter Shapiro, a columnist for the Columbia Journalism Review and Yahoo! News, and special correspondent to The New Republic. Read his preview to the John Edwards trial.

From Tom's Reading List

Charlotte Observer "Remember how in the Bible, Moses’ punishment for disobedience was being denied entry into the Promised Land?"

National Review "If being a louse were a crime, John Edwards would hang for it. But he is instead facing prison for alleged campaign-finance violations, and it is our obligation to come unenthusiastically to his defense."

Chicago Tribune "Jurors in the federal criminal trial of John Edwards were clearly not given a primer on the intricacies of the campaign finance laws he is accused of violating. Instead, they listened to Andrew Young, the former presidential candidate's once-trusted aide, describe how Edwards called his mistress a "crazy slut," used a secret "Bat phone" to call her, and accepted money from rich friends to pay her expenses."

This program aired on May 3, 2012.

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