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The Edwards File

Beneath that slick exterior is a genuine sleazebag.

Mar 1, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 23 • By DEBRA J. SAUNDERS
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By this time, Young later realized, he no longer saw the Edwardses “clearly. In fact, I was willing to imagine they had positive qualities they didn’t actually possess and overlook their flaws and mistakes, because I needed them to succeed.” He was hooked. Over-mortgaged and seduced by the access to fame he had acquired—flying in private jets and hanging out with Hootie and the Blowfish and the Dave Matthews Band, chit-chatting with Ted Kennedy—by the time Edwards asked Young to say he was Quinn Hunter’s father he had invested too much in Edwards to watch him fail.

As one who saw Edwards as a smarmy lightweight, I nonetheless was drawn in by Young’s valet’s eye view of this man who would be president. Once, Young lent Edwards his car; the senator backed it into another car and left a dent in Young’s new Chevrolet Suburban without telling him, or offering to pay for the damage. The dent became “a reminder of John Edwards’s sense of entitlement,” Andrew Young’s vehicular proof that no man is a hero to his valet.

But a man can be a hero to someone else’s valet. Of Erskine Bowles, Young writes, “I admired his intelligence and honesty and the fact that he refused to let me help him bring his luggage and golf clubs inside.” Rielle Hunter fares less well in Young’s judgment, especially in light of her shabby treatment after she moved in with Young, his wife Cheri, and their three children, and the entourage embarked on a surreal months-long odyssey from private jet to luxury hotel to Aspen superhome in order to bolster a charade that no one but Elizabeth Edwards believed. If she believed. Young never does explain exactly when he began saving text messages, voicemail, and (we now know) the infamous sex tape, although in their last confrontation, Young told Edwards that he had begun keeping notes “almost every day since I began working for him.” 

Did Young begin thinking he was drafting a diary for history, or as critics suggest, fodder for a book deal?
Can readers trust a man who, in attesting to be the father of Rielle Hunter’s baby, is a known liar? Can readers trust a man ready to do anything to help put such an unworthy character into the White House? Well, having read other accounts, and trusting in Young’s ample documentation—not to mention his publisher’s fear of the tort system—I found this account believable, and wrenching. Of course, the Edwardses are hardly credible—what with John Edwards denying any extramarital affair, then admitting the affair but denying paternity, then admitting paternity—but the irony is that Young forfeited his credibility for a ruse that no one in politics took seriously.

“What happened to loyalty?” a CNN talking head recently asked as she repeated the standard refrain about Andrew Young. To read The Politician is to understand that, after sacrificing his time, reputation, and his very employability, Andrew Young owes John and Elizabeth Edwards nothing.

Debra J. Saunders writes a syndicated column for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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