Published by Thomas Dunne Books on January 30, 2010
Genres/Lists: Non-Fiction, Political
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Oh, how I wish I could have read the ending of this book first! But of course, if I had, I wouldn’t have experienced the full range of emotions from outrage to disbelief. Written by Andrew Young, top aide to former Presidential candidate John Edwards, The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down is his way of setting the infamous Rielle Hunter scandal straight.
I went into this book a little skeptical because I lived in North Carolina while the 2008 debacle went down and had preconceived notions of what had happened. I mean, how could a married father like Young accept responsibility for a child that wasn’t his? What does that say about his own values? And these questions are why I wished I could have read the ending of the book first. Here is a breakdown of the emotional roller coaster this book took me on:
- First 50%: I did not start out liking Andrew Young because all he did was toot his own horn and point out flaws in others. He painted himself as an idealistic kid who was dazzled by Edwards‘ charm and potential. While I believe that he was swept up in all things Edwards and was quite naive, he presents himself to the reader as beyond reproach.
- Next 30%: Then I was shocked and mad. By this point, I had very little sympathy for Young because he admitted that he was sharing things that were, “between him and Edwards,” that were not of a political nature and I thought it was tacky to divulge information about his son’s death.
He also compares the Edwards family to the mob and starts becoming heavily involved in the Rielle Hunter cover-up. I just could not believe that an intelligent, married, father of three would intentionally put his family in that type of situation. It’s not as if he were single and had no one counting on him. At this point, I was thinking that Edwards was scum but that Young was just as scummy (I think covering up for a cheater is just as bad as cheating).
- Last 20%: Here, a few things happen. Young vilifies both John and Elizabeth Edwards, but he also finally redeems himself. He admits his own shortcomings and failures, understands that he allowed himself to be swallowed up by the affair and realizes that he needs to move forward. It is in the last pages that we also learn the full implications of his actions. With Elizabeth Edwards leaving mean-spirited messages on Young’s phone and John Edwards refusing to tell the truth as promised, Young has no one to turn to. Trash-talked out of a career and left behind by Edwards’ buddies, Young and his family are left to deal with the fallout from their decision to accept responsibility for, and harbor, Rielle and her child.
In the end, I have sympathy for Young and everything he went through. I’m mostly sympathetic toward his wife and children, even though his wife was more or less willing to participate in the charade. Edwards had fooled everyone, including his friends, donors, and wife. While I don’t think that Edwards intended to use Young as the pawn that he became, Young’s eagerness to “never say no” led him right into the lion’s den. I’m not sure where Young is now, but I hope that he’s been able to move beyond what happened.
Side note: I tried and failed to find some of the photos referenced in this book, such as the one of John Edwards in People Magazine and the one of Teresa Heinz removing Jack Edwards’ thumb from his mouth. I wish the author/publisher had included these photos that were described so vividly!