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Book review: John Edwards exposed in 'The Politician' by Andrew Young

Andrew YoungElizabeth EdwardsJohn EdwardsRielle HunterThe Politician
Johnedwardscampaigning

Got a chief aide? Don't abandon him for your mistress. That's the chief lesson that powerful, philandering men can take from "The Politician" by Andrew Young. For all its finger-pointing and salacious details, this online bestseller is really about a bromance gone bad. "Where he once called several times a day, he now never dialed my number," Young writes. "When I got through to him, he kept the calls brief and guarded what he said."

"He," of course, is John Edwards, who did push Young's loyalty far; when Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter hit the press -- and she was pregnant -- he convinced Young to say the child was his. Then Young, his wife, children and Hunter all trundled off together to a series of resort-like rentals and vacation houses -- the last one with a $20,000-per-month price tag -- until she had the child.

Young had been working closely with Edwards for close to 10 years. Initially a volunteer fundraiser on Edwards' successful Senate campaign, Young used his lawyer connections to help find a place on Edward's North Carolina staff. He was an important player in Edwards' 2004 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he was also a close friend. Edwards and Young had brought their families on vacation to Disney World when Edwards learned that Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry had picked him as his vice presidential running mate. According to Young's account, Edwards would say things like, "I love you. You are like a brother to me."

Which makes passages like this, in which Young describes being a trusted witness to Edwards' affair, all the more sad. Does he really have to go there?

Whenever Rielle called me, she tried to talk explicitly about her relationship with the senator. For obvious reasons, she couldn't talk about these things with anyone else, so I figured I was serving as a sort of safety valve, letting her blow off steam. When the details about specific sexual acts, love bites, or the condition of her vagina got too graphic, I cut her off, but my attempts to set limits on Rielle were only partly effective.

Hunter, who produced webisodes for Edwards' campaign, is portrayed as a loose cannon with sex on her mind. Her affair with Edwards lasted, according to Young, for many months before a story about it appeared in the tabloid the National Enquirer. Young details the affair from behind the scenes: He carried a special phone for Edwards to use when talking to Hunter; he was there during a visit she made to North Carolina when Edwards' wife Elizabeth was away on book tour; and he caroused with Edwards, Hunter and others on the road during a night of rowdy drinking. Young even lays the groundwork for his version of events to be denied, describing in a near-discovery of Hunter in Edwards' hotel room in Florida, following it with Edwards seeming to forget the entire incident.

In 2008, Edwards had dropped another attempt at the Democratic nomination but was angling, again, to be selected as the vice presidential running mate. Elizabeth Edwards' well-publicized cancer had gotten worse, and Hunter had a baby daughter. In one of the more incredible details of Young's tale, he says that Edwards asked him to steal a diaper so he could do a DNA test; Young never did.

Young was packing up a house that Hunter had briefly shared with his family, he found a box of her things, including:

...a number of videotapes, including one marked "special," which had the tape pulled out and seemed intentionally broken....I couldn't resist. With scissors, a pen, and some scotch tape, I fixed the cassette.... As I pressed play, we saw an image of a man -- John Edwards -- and a naked pregnant woman, photographed from the navel down, engaged in a sexual encounter. The images were recorded with the somewhat steady assurance of a professional, and the senator's performance was ironically narcissistic.... As compromising images of a former presidential candidate and current contender for vice president flashed on the screen, [Young's wife] Cheri and I dropped to the floor, and watched, speechless.... We debated turning it off, but neither of us could actually press the button. It was like watching a traffic pileup occur in slow motion -- it was repelling but also transfixing. 

Is the book transfixing? Not exactly -- it's more of a whinge. Young is harshly critical of everyone around him but doesn't take responsibility for his own decisions. He went along with saying Hunter's child was his, but he could have said no; he never wrestles with moral issues. Instead he casts judgments.

Edwards' women get particularly harsh treatment. Hunter is portrayed as a sex-crazed loose cannon; once she has the baby, she's too attached to it (what does he expect from a single 42-year-old woman who's been packed off by the famous father of her child to give birth on her own?). Elizabeth Edwards fares no better -- in Young's telling, she's a controlling, vindictive harpy who leaves cruel phone messages for people who incur her wrath.

This is a far different image than Elizabeth Edwards projected in her 2009 book "Resilience," in which she wrote about love, loss and forgiveness. That forgiveness may have given out: last month, after John Edwards acknowledged that he is the father of Hunter's child -- prompted, many said, by the impending publication of Young's book -- Elizabeth Edwards announced their separation

If John Edwards did everything that Young describes in the book, he was selfish, deceitful and willing to go to extraordinary lengths to cover up an affair he shouldn't have been carrying on in the middle of a race for his party's presidential nomination. So it is remarkable that he comes out not seeming all that bad. 

Not that Young has forgiven him. He had been gathering ammunition for a long time; when he discovered the dirty videotape, he immediately decided he "now possessed something powerful" and locked it up in a safe deposit box. This does not engender sympathy, and every effort that Young makes to portray Elizabeth Edwards unkindly reflects back on him. Young feels John Edwards owes him. "The Politician" is payback.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: John Edwards and wife Elizabeth share the stage in New Hampshire in October 2007. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

 
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I am in such total disagreement with the author that I have to wonder if she has even read this book. Andrew Young takes full responsibility for his actions and the book actually reads more like a political playbook than a seething tale of adultery. He carefully lays out exactly how the situation happened and how each thing that Edwards asked of him was slowly building to it's final conclusion. I would find it hard to believe the description of Elizabeth Edwards if the voicemails included in the book were not verbatim but they are, and they depict a woman so angry at her husband but unwilling to blame him that she is forced to use Andrew Young as a scapegoat for her rage. What they did to the Youngs was disgusting and bravo to them for getting their version out there for the public.

Emily Ferguson, are you really Andrew Young or his wife??? If not, how would know how true of an account the book really is... LOL

I just completed reading this book. As a volunteer for Edwards during both presidential runs, I know many of the people Mr. Young has mentioned in the book. I have also seen Mrs. Edwards angrily chastize her husband in front of a group of shocked volunteers.

I believe what Mr. Young wrote to be true and factual. Even though I find him to be a sleazy person, I can understand why he would feel the need to do whatever necessary to make money and provide for his family.

This book is not "shock and awe." He doesn't BAD MOUTH John and Elizabeth Edwards. He talks about them very matter-of-factly and in the most respectful terms possible, given the situations.

There is nothing the book that hasn't already been released by the press.

There is a special kind of hell for people like John Edwards. I'm sorry for Mrs. Edwards' cancer, but she is NOT a total victim in all of this. She is/was just as HUNGRY for power as her husband, if not more.

Curious Reader,
I did not claim that the book was "true." Are you claiming that the information provided by John Edwards himself was not true? I'm confused.

Edwards was the one candidate who consistently went t0o bat for the Little Guy, for which I am grateful, and and no amount of alleged disorder in his personal life can change that.

Emily Ferguson,

I would say you are confused. If you did not claim that the book was "true" then your post is false. From your post: "I would find it hard to believe the description of Elizabeth Edwards if the voicemails included in the book were not verbatim but they are,".... How would you know that the descriptions of the voicemails included in the book were verbatim unless you actually heard them? Just a thought -- if you are not an imposter, I apologize.......

Dear Sal,

John Edwards talked about the Little Guy because it SOUNDED good and made him LOOK good. It was a POPULAR PLATFORM. Period.

He missed his calling in the film industry because, in reality, he doesn't give a damn about the Little Guy.

Everything he says or does is just another photo op. He is an A C T O R! Duh, he want to Haiti with SEAN PENN! Helloooo???

John Edwards is a self-centered, evil man. He stole from countless people. He took them for a RIDE.

Let him go.

Young is a punk and needs to lay off of Elisabeth. first he lies to her and says noooooo your husband isnt having an affair thats my girl friend. then, nooooo thats not your husbands baby ,it my baby. then when John AND Youngs lies are exposed he acts offended that she is pissed at him also???? Young complains that she left angry msgs on his answer machine! he is lucky thats all she did to him after all the lies he told her and the game he played with her life. Young is a snake!

gross gross gross -- him, him, her, them - all of them , a bunch of ner' do wells that deserve to sink into a bottomless pit of sh t. Glad he is out of politics. Im a democrat and he has embarrassed us all. Shame on them ALL.

Andrew Young deserves to be right where he put himself - unemployable and shunned. Maybe he'll make money off of this book, but it exposes to the world (and Young's children & family) that Young is a selfish, greedy, sleazebag. Young knew in the very beginning that Edwards was sleeping with another woman in his WIFE's BED and all that both Youngs cared about was what they could get out of the deal. My heart goes out to Elizabeth and her family... For self serving sociopaths Young, Reille Hunter, and John Edwards I feel disgust, disbelief, and a complete lack of sympathy. And, the whole "finding the sex tape" story smells "fishy" to me... Wouldn't be surprised if Reille and the Youngs were somehow involved or responsible. No doubt that John Edwards is beyond a sick fool, but somehow Edwards appears to have been far more "set up" by Hunter and Young than the reverse. Those screaming "We are Victims!" need only to look in the mirror to see whom to blame.

Carolyn Kellogg must be so jaded abuut politics if she can conclude > Adultery, money laundering, shamelessly lying to everyone, putting the Democratic part and even the country at risk is not all that bad?? What planet does she--oh wait, she lives in LA. Enough said.

Here mainstream media is still kicking itself about missing the Edwards affair story but is still missing the Elizabeth story. No one has yet painted a COMPLETE picture of Elizabeth. We have her two pollyanna books, and the two bar-b-que books (Game Change and the Politician), but still no complete picture. Was Edwards' affair the natural culmination of 30 years of belittling by a controlling b-tch, or his unleashed ego? Did the combination of a campaign, cancer drugs, menopause, and her husband's affair unleash the 30 yrs of pent-up anger and the negative side of a perfectly nice and normal woman, as so often happens to people in a crumbling marriage? Did this smart women really fall for the incredible paternity lies? How much did she know and when?

I finished this book within 2 days of purchasing it. I loved it and hated it. I loved how honest Andrew Young was about how being surrounded by the power, deception and other peoples dreams can wear down the strongest morals. I hated it because i lived it once. A much smaller scale but none the less, I now am also unemployable and suffered for years over my roles in political drama.
I would love to speak to Andrew Young. No one else can know or begin to understand how your life can change so fast, how things you never thought possible can happen in an instant and you be in the middle. It is hard to explain to people who have not lived it but he did such a good job it was like I could identify with every emotion.
Believe every word people... it happens more than you know!
I give him credit for writing the book. He has a family to support and obviously no one willing to give him a job. I am there... I have been there. It is a hard future to face.

Andrew Young and I have been friends for over 18 years. His wife is one of the kindest, most generous, giving people you could ever know. They did out of loyalty to John Edwards, make some really bad decisions that have cost their family so much, but have cost them their integrity and their good reputations, as well as many of their friends and the life they had before John Edwards betrayal. I hope that they will be able to profit from telling the truth and at some point in the future get back to their lives and spending time with their beautiful children.

i only have sympathy for elizabeth. john i think started out decent and then got wrapped up in the sleaze of d.c. and power (read the prince by machiavelli) and there was no going back for him. i think elizabeth wanted to believe the best about john because the man she married was MUCH different then the monster and pseudo-celebrity he became or thinks he still is. and to get conned by an idiot/floozy like rielle hunter is beyond pathetic. and by the way, her real name is lisa druck from florida. she's been a grifter her entire life. she's never done an honest thing in her life. and now elizabeth and john have to pay her child support through the nose. jesus. elizabeth, you are wonderful and beyond understanding. i hope your last years are happy and peaceful and screw your moronic ex and his ho-bag mistress. and i hope andrew makes a ton of money off this. i think he earned it to be honest.

I also just read the book. I'm surprised I agree with many of the comments here. It's clear that all involved are sleazebags, and Elizabeth comes off as the villain of the piece. She is more grasping and power-hungry than either John or Andrew. At the end of the book, I thought "This sounds just like a book about the Clintons would." The similarities are amazing. It makes me wonder if all really successful politicians have many of these same personal character flaws. They all seem to have a capacity to use people to the maximum, and the charm (which they can turn on and off in an instant) to make those used feel special that they were chosen. And when they are no longer useful, these "almost family" members are tossed aside without a thought. And all the while they are blind to the huge flaws and can only see how The Politician will save the world, if we can only get him elected. They find every possible way to delude themselves into overlooking all the signs of megalomania right in front of them.

These people, Edwards, Hunter, Young and his wife are all scum-bags......I can go to a red-neck trailer park and find people with more moral terpitude than ANY of them!.....I hope they all get what they deserve - miserable lives.....

I just finished the book as well. I wanted to hate it(and be mad at myself for buying and reading it) but I was unable put it down until I finished it last night.
In the end, I couldn't decide who I had less respect for: the Edwardses or Andrew and Cheri Young.
Andrew AND his wife were the ultimate opportunists, and likely, promises of money and fame were their motivations to stay connected to the sick couple who wanted to occupy the WH.
They were the worst kind of enablers and Andrew neglected his family to continue in the service of the despicable John Edwards, catering to his every need and demeaning himself in the process.
Who has ever attached themselves to someone else's star and had it work out well? Respect for another human being is one thing: Idolatry is another and someone else can never fill the hole inside of us.
John Edwards never had my respect. What a loser: mean, egotistical, callous and stupid. I don't think he would have ever made it to the White House. He wasn't authentic and had too much to hide.
And Elizabeth using her cancer diagnosis to further the unattainable power hungry goals of her and her husband? She deserves what she got and is now a lonely, bitter woman as a result.
The main lesson to me was that I am grateful to be a Republican and a Conservative. This story reinforced all of the preconceived suspicions I've had about liberal Democrats.

I finished the book last Monday and I agree with every single thing Mary in Colorado said. Very true, pathetic people and the worst being John Edwards.

I'm also wondering if the author of this article even read the book. Yes, he does wrestle with moral issues all through this story. How did Ms. Kellogg miss that? From the very beginning of the story he questions his behavior. No one in this book looks good except for Andrew Young's wife, Cheri. She's literally the only bright spot. The author does not make himself look good at all. The book definitely seems very honest. I wish they fact-checked it, a lot of situations he describes have witnesses so I hope someone out there talks to them to see if those situations really occurred. Either way, the book is well written, I sat down with it at 9 a.m, was done by 8 p.m. I couldn't put it down. It's a good book to read, reads like a novel not a documentary, whether you want to believe it or not...

You say Young's comments about Elizabeth Edwards reflect badly on him.

Have you not read "Game Change" in which she comes off just as mean and nasty?

Are all of these writers and their sources wrong, then?

I read this book in one day - couldn't put it down! I worked on the Kerry/Edwards campaign and met both Elizabeth and John at the campaign kick-off in Denver. At the time, I remarked to my disbelieving friends that they were both phonys.

I have one comment to make to Mary in Colorado: don't judge all "liberal democrats" by the actions of this sleazebag. Your party has its share of scumbags too: Mark Foley, David Vitter, Mark Sanford and John Ensign - to name a few.

Having worked for politicians, I deeply empathize with Andrew Young. Politicians expect a lot of their staff.

They often think of themselves as "Kings and Queens." For a group of people who proclaim themselves as "leaders of the future," they treat their staff as feudal peasants.

Staff and volunteers are expected to, at the least, give up their time, social life, family life, money and health (you think someone working in this environment can exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet?).

This is the least the Kings and Queens expect.

The next level involves giving up your goals, ideas, dreams and reciting the "cult mantra," of the "campaign."

And then, the next fine line involves morals and values.

While I did not work for politicians who asked me to give up my morals and values - I can see how life in politics could reach that level.

Thank you, Andrew, for writing this.


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