Saturday, January 30, 2010

John Edwards: made in the USA, but not really "Made in the USA"

A new tell-all book about former Sen. John Edwards, who was once thought to be a strong contender for the presidency in 2008 and was Sen. John Kerry's running mate in 2004, is now available in bookstores. This book, called The Politician, is making headlines and affecting lives.

Although Edwards's bright-light dimmed 18 months ago -- he was a less effective candidate in the 2008 primaries than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton -- and was put out when it was reported last year that Edwards was a serial philanderer and had fathered a child out of wedlock with one of his aides, this book is making news because it seems to have caused Mr. Edwards to finally concede what everyone else knew: that his mistress's child was also his. And that concession seems to have prompted his cancer-stricken wife, who naively believed her husband up to that point, to divorce him.

What is notable about the book's author, Andrew Young -- not the same Andrew Young who was the Mayor of Atlanta and who served in the Carter Administration -- is how intimately he was involved in the affair itself. He helped Edwards pull it off. He helped with keeping things quiet and making sure payments were made. And when the Senator's paramour, Rielle Hunter, became pregnant, he took on the role of pretending that he was actually the baby's daddy.

I have no idea if all of Mr. Young's charges are true. (Young accuses Mrs. Edwards of politicizing her cancer diagnosis.) Both John and Elizabeth Edwards's representatives have said they are not. I don't care enough one way or the other. I won't read the book. However, the decline and fall of John Edwards does intrigue me.

In January 2006, John Edwards came to Davis as part of his pre-campaign campaign for the 2008 nomination. This is part of what I wrote about his appearance, which I attended at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis:
Though he has a very thin resume in elected office – his only experience in government was the single term he served in the U.S. Senate – John Edwards has all the markings of a person who could get elected president.

He speaks well. He’s good looking. He’s bright. He’s charming. He’s not a blowhard or a bore.

The Senator-cum-trial lawyer connects on an emotional level. He knows how to say what his audience wants to hear. And, even when talking about difficult problems, he comes across as a positive and uplifting character. If Edwards ever made it to the White House, his style would be more Ronald Reagan, less Jimmy Carter.

At that time and for the next two years, I did not think Edwards was going to win the Democratic nomination. I thought Hillary Clinton, with her more impressive resume and her greater degree of celebrity, would win. (Obviously, I did not give enough weight to Barack Obama's immense talent as a candidate.) But I saw Edwards as a top player, as someone who would for a long time be in the game. He had too much charm to just fade away.

Yet now that he has crashed and burned, we won't likely hear too much more from him.

Here are some excerpts from the new Young book from a CNN report:
... when Edwards impregnated Hunter, Young said he agreed to the senator's request to lie and say he was the father even though Young, himself, was married with three children.

Young said Hunter was also initially against the idea but warmed up to it after being told her financial needs would be met. His wife, Cheri, eventually agreed to the plan, setting in motion a chaotic time for the family as they uprooted their lives in North Carolina and criss-crossed the country with Hunter and their children in an effort to evade the media.

Young portrays John Edwards as a vain man whose only care in the world was himself:
Young said it wasn't until John Edwards privately expressed indifference about the birth of his daughter, Frances Quinn Hunter, in February 2008, that he realized the former senator cared only about himself.

"After watching and hearing John Edwards practice a thousand little deceptions and tell a thousand different lies, ostensibly in the service of some greater good, I finally recognized that he didn't care about anyone other than himself," Young writes.

"A precious living, breathing human being -- his daughter -- had come into the world, and he wasn't inclined to even call the woman who had given birth to her. Instead, I had to prompt him to do the right thing, to do the most basic, human thing."

Young also portrays Edwards's populism as phony:
Despite Edwards' carefully crafted image as a champion for everyday people, he was "irritated by ordinary events. He especially hated making appearances at state fairs, where 'fat rednecks try to shove food down my face. I know I'm the people's senator, but do I have to hang out with them?'"

Young further portrays Edwards's sympathy for union workers in the U.S. as contrived:
Edwards understood his audience and before appearing at a Service Employees International Union health care event in Las Vegas, Nevada, he instructed Young to take his Italian suit coat to a tailor to remove the label indicating it was Italian-made. In its place, Edwards had the tailor sew in a "Made in the USA" label that had been on Young's jacket.

Edwards made most of his fortune as a trial lawyer. He convinced gullible jurors to award his clients millions of dollars in medical "malpractice" cases, even when the doctors being sued followed the best available scientific evidence to guide their decisions. The fact that a lawyer of that caliber is in reality a fraud is not surprising. But the fact that this particular fraud has been exposed as such is something I never expected.

1 comment:

jimmy said...

• There's a movement to radically change California government, by getting rid of career politicians and chopping their salaries in half. A group known as Citizens for California Reform wants to make the California legislature a part time time job, just like it was until 1966.