After months of seclusion, noted philanderer — er, philanthropist — John Edwards made his first public appearance last night in Indiana University.  His Bloomington speech focused on the poor, and specifically avoided the peccadilloes that forced his exit from the front lines of the Democratic campaign this summer:

John Edwards didn’t have to dodge tough questions from an Indiana University audience Tuesday, when the former presidential candidate returned to the stage three months after admitting to an extramarital affair.

The Democrat’s 30-minute speech covered politics, poverty and his hopes for America and the world and he later discussed President-elect Obama and other topics from the audience.

But the half-hour question-and-answer period featured only written queries that had been submitted before his speech — and the affair he has acknowledged with filmmaker Rielle Hunter didn’t surface.

Can John Edwards rehabilitate himself?  As Andrew Malcolm notes, Americans tend to forgive, if not forget.  Bill Clinton managed to get past his serial infidelities to win the Presidency.  Even after more revelations and nearly getting booted from office by Congress over his perjury in connection with his philandery, Clinton manages to remain popular, and while one can argue that he did more harm than good to Hillary’s campaign, it wasn’t his infidelities that did the damage.

Edwards, though, has other problems.  In the first place, he’s a raging hypocrite.  He ran on his wife’s illness as a martyr while cheating on her at the same time.  He talks about sacrifice for the poor while building a 28,000 square foot mansion.  Besides serving one term in the Senate, Edwards has done nothing other than chase ambulances as a personal-injury lawyer.  Edwards makes Obama look experienced.

I doubt that rehabilitation is in the cards for Edwards.  He failed at two attempts to run for President even without the Rielle Hunter scandal dogging him.  His greatest accomplishment has been to avoid committee meetings and to run against what little record he compiled in his single term in political office.  Other than the freak-show vibe coming from his public appearance in Bloomington last night, no one really cares about Edwards.  You can’t rehabilitate apathy.