“It’s abundantly clear how most people view John Edwards: unforgivably hypocritical and falsely pious, the epitome of a terrible husband and father, and a dirty liar to boot,” The American Prospect‘s Ed Moser writes in a 6.4 piece. “Even before his stomach-turning trial began, Edwards’ approval rating was a rock-bottom three percent. Seeing those numbers, it was hard not to feel a little sorry for the guy –especially given the more-than-valid questions about the political motivations and validity of his ultimately unsuccessful prosecution.

“But any such emotions were extinguished on Thursday, after Edwards’ jury hung on five counts and acquitted him on the other.

“He came out of the courtroom a free man, looking like a million well-tanned bucks under the North Carolina sun, with his slick suit and his pasted-down hair and his overeager earnestness. Edwards could have stopped at thanking the jury and his attorneys and his family, and slinked away from the scene — far, far from the public eye, for good. Instead, he delivered a carefully crafted, well-rehearsed comeback speech. ‘I don’t think God’s through with me,’ he declared, saying that he wanted to get back to fighting poverty.

“And then he ensured that he’d be all over the gossip sites the next day by delivering an ode to his daughter by Hunter, ‘my precious Quinn,’ whom he’d never acknowledged in public before.

“The whole oration was vintage John Edwards — in other words, deeply mystifying. You didn’t know what to think: Was he sincerely trying to come honest after all those accumulated lies? Or was he (gulp!) trying to begin resetting public opinion of him so he could somehow revive his public career? Or — ye Gods — his political career?

“You can’t put it past him. You can imagine Edwards thinking: Hey, if Nixon could do it… It’s what the elephantine egos that become powerful politicians do. Once they’ve had your love, they want it back. They must have it. And some do regain favor after a fall. Bill Clinton, anyone?

“But Edwards is not Big Bill. The excesses of Clinton’s private life were part and parcel of what some already loved — and others already hated — about him. Edwards’ misdeeds, like Tiger Woods‘, wrecked his image because they seemed to give the lie to his public persona. He was supposed to be the loyal husband of an unglamorous wife with cancer, the mill-worker’s son who hadn’t forgotten the regular people, the weatherman-handsome young fellow with a brain, a heart, and a smile. It all seemed too good to be true — and then, slowly but surely, it became clear that it was.”