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Book Review: The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down by Andrew Young

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These days The National Enquirer provides a sole, solid source in all things John Edwards and Rielle Hunter.They reported in March that Edwards could face indictment for his misuse of campaign funds during the 2008 presidential campaign. TNE was first to connect the Rielle dots. Who knew? Andrew Young knew.

He knows all, tells all in his riveting recount of his days under the thumbs of Senator Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards. So, while the world is kept in splendid ignorance John and Rielle hijack our trust with the throes of their lust for each other and the White House. In The Politician, Andrew reveals the affair timeline and more. He reveals what only the few would know — that Elizabeth’s cancer was a trump card played to the MSM band. Why, because she wants the White House more than she wants honesty and decency. She believes her husband's lies, and they are legion.

Young’s gambit puts his wife, children and most of all his future as breadwinner on the chopping block for candidate Edwards. But none of that is in evidence when their paths cross at a hotel in Myrtle Beach. Edwards just won the party’s nomination for senator and finds himself a big fish in a small pond. A big guy going to “hope and change” both Wall Street and Washington, because hope and change is the David Axelrod formula for Edwards until he sends him packing to the Obama camp. Andrew catches sight of Edwards on the beach during this conference, alone and driving a beat-up Buick, effecting the “everyman image,” effortlessly. Love at first sight for Andrew.

Unilateral love put to good use because by page 52 the author has a long list of sundry duties that Elizabeth lays out for him. Unbelievable: dusting, cleaning, changing light bulbs, and delegating other tasks to the proper craftsmen. Andrew did not know that being a body man includes slave labor. His compensation is good but he is on call 24/7! Yes, Young falls hard but only because Edwards sticks his big foot out and trips him along with many others. When you build trust found in a devoted follower or student you better have good intentions. We learn that in the John Edwards’ world there is only shelter for himself, his family, and his lust for power.

Young traces his steps with Edwards from his early days as senator trying to live in Washington, D.C.— a disaster. Then the important Gore-Kerry WH bid. Edwards secretly hopes Gore will fail leaving him the contender in 2008. He gets his wish but first he lands on the John Kerry ticket that goes down in defeat. According to Young, John has eyes for the White House from the get go. Nothing else mattered, nothing.

Edwards' chance to test his mettle comes with the expected call to interview with John Kerry for the VP slot. John and Elizabeth both report that the meetings do not go well with the Kerry couple. I mean how do you trump a billionaire, his philanthropy and reach? You can’t. But John and Elizabeth did not see it that way. Their little world crushes under the weight of the mighty Heinz woman and her husband John Kerry. But Edwards accepts the slot, naturally. The democrat ticket defeated by Bush is bad history that John wants to fix and forget quickly.

John moves on with his life and to a woman named Rielle. From the first “accidental” meeting in a hotel lobby Rielle Hunter (she renamed herself) sets her hat for John Edwards. She loves powerful men — we get it. Because she quips to Andrew that only three years before she was living in her car. They sleep together that night and many more in the future. Elizabeth has her breast cancer but John has Rielle. Because Elizabeth's cancer becomes a mere timeline, countdown, and pawn for Edwards, “In many ways, the senator acted as if she were gone already. In March he arranged to celebrate Rielle’s birthday…while he campaigned in Iowa.” (Page 200)

In short, the Edwards-Hunter affair is the fuck heard around the political world. When the newborn cries it’s over, news long overdue. What goes up must come down and go to jail. But I am getting ahead of the tale.

This is where his self-indulgent (but needed) memoir gets muddled. John has told Elizabeth so many lies about the affair, Andrews’ role in and the outcome (the WH), that she bans Andrew and tries to fire him from the campaign. The result: the 400-dollar haircuts go public. Young would use the proper credit cards and the proper accounts when paying for John’s frequent, personal expenses. But the staffers put into place after Andrews “banning” make mistakes, big ones. The haircut is paid by campaign funds instead of personal funds as usual. That cut cost Edwards’ in the polls.

Speaking of money — Edwards is loaded. And he spends it on a sprawling mansion, himself and his dreams. While touting himself as the poverty advocate, he lives in a wealthy white enclave. And worse, would soon accept “hush” money from one of the wealthiest women in the world: Bunny Mellon. Fred Baron (deceased) and Bunny Mellon finance the Hunter affair. Young’s entire family and his long-suffering wife jet around the country, feasting on the best wine, food, and housing that money can buy. But they suffer deeply. Andrew, after years cleaning up after John and Elizabeth, is emotionally and morally bankrupt and he has only himself to thank. The Edwards and Young part bitter company.

Edwards, after the fall, promises that with the help of $50 million dollars from Bunny Mellon he can start a poverty foundation with Andrew Young installed as its head. In the end, in a final conversation John claims there were no plans for a foundation and that Young fabricates this scheme to bilk Bunny out of her money. What a way to go!

Ten  important things I learned about the Edward’s campaign:

1)   John had great wealth but even greater stealth.

2)   Bump in the polls on the news of Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer but a downward spike when the $400 haircut made headlines.

3)   Rielle wanted to be caught and stalked by the paparazzi.

4)  Edwards did not think a black or a woman could be elected.

5)   John Edwards’s was a poverty-pushing phony. It was a gimmick because he hated his own humble roots.

6)   Andrew Young was John and Elizabeth’s personal slave first, campaign manager second.

7)   Rielle set up John to be “found” in the LA hotel by the press.

8)   The National Enquirer was hot on John and Rielle affair while the MSM ignored this source.

9)   Vast sums of money were funneled “legally” into the Edwards’ campaign. Deep pockets make this utter deception on the public possible.  

10) Rielle extremely jealous of media attention paid to Elizabeth by virtue of her cancer or John's regard for her.

Finally, the why of Andrew’s life is unscripted page by page. He makes no apologies for his blind allegiance to a man in love with himself. He eventually realizes his folly but it is too late. But he nails the absolute selfishness displayed by Rielle Hunter, the spiritual one, in this sordid story. If we are to believe the accounts of her outrageous but “moral” behavior, then the whole world is evil — except Rielle.

The Politician brims with drama around every bend. The drama includes his devoted wife Cheri Young. She is trapped. Complicity and goodness  continually juxtaposed, in this Greek tragedy, with John, and Elizabeth and Rielle’s utter selfishness and crusade for the highest office in the land as backdrop. When the curtain is lifted on political ambition and those who “buy into” their candidate without question, one man, one vote remains the only real hope.

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