For all these things, the biggest factor in the utter destruction of the Edwards brand might be the way the inner man clashed so dramatically with the veneer he presented to the world — and that’s not the case with most political scoundrels. Was it any surprise that Bill Clinton eventually came to grief over a White House affair? Is it any surprise when Gingrich, who just ain’t a very nice guy, acts that way?

“It’s a question of what these people are selling,” says psychologist Michael Schulman, author of Bringing Up a Moral Child. “Clinton was selling a kind of goodness, but also a sexuality with it. There was a sense he couldn’t help himself. Gingrich, you expect to be a club fighter. Edwards sold goodness in a sort of beatific way, so when we find out he’s so soiled and corrupt there’s nothing left but loathing.”

The camera-ready looks that made Edwards so appealing to juries and, at one time, voters, may have made that unmasking all the worse.