Sunday, January 20, 2013
Paper Backtime: Oh What Could Have Been
Today Barack Obama took the Oath of Office for his second term as President. It made me think of what the last 4 years could have been in an alternate universe. And in that time, there is no book I enjoyed more than Andrew Young's account of life in the service of John Edwards.
Young isn't a great writer or particularly funny. But the chronological narrative is well-structured, the details are incredible, and the story is unbelievably believable. It is one part political insider and one part spy novel. The documentation of the trouble and expense of the Rielle Hunter cover-up is truly mind-blowing.
The campaign fraud case of The United States versus John Edwards ended in a mistrial this past May. How dare the feds spend our tax money on a case against the slickest lawyer around?
It was a bad federal case on its general merits - meaning it could be argued out of. Most of the legwork is the result of this book, so Andrew Young is seen as an opportunist. He's a political operative, which automatically makes him a morally flexible money grubber. But that doesn't mean he's lying.
A Senator's right-hand man probably makes about $120K, plus political graft: a handful of free tennis lessons for your daughter, prime Redskins seats a couple of times a year, etc. So were there angles that Young played in the aftermath of the Edwards "affair" for financial gain? Yes of course, but he would likely make his own case that his family earned it.
It was Edwards whose narcissism made Young part of the public eye in the first place, when he coerced him into claiming paternity during Hunter's pregnancy. Young went along with it as his career had become co-dependant with Edwards. And once it got started and all the lies started snowballing it was too late to extricate himself. It was sort of like the Manti Te'o situation, only it really happened.
Young was starry-eyed when he went to work for a prolific trial-lawyer turned wonder boy US Senator. He and his family were sucked in by the potential of being inner-circle power players as Edwards ran for Vice President in '04 and then for top dog in '08. But Edwards was sucked in as well.
Edwards came from humble beginnings, the "son of a mill worker," he grew up with a silver tongue in the courtroom and aged very handsomely despite the death of his teenage son. And despite being puppeteered by another attorney, Elizabeth Edwards.
Young backs up the subject that was broached in Game Change, that Elizabeth manipulated John's entire career, verbally abused him relentlessly, berated the senior staff and used them as personal gophers.
I introduced one of my lawyer friends to this book, and he said there was a reason he never dated a fellow law student.
As Edwards got closer and closer to his presidential run, his wife became more and more impossible, and he wound up seeking comfort in a relationship with another relentless and demanding woman, Rielle Hunter. Young was the one caught in the middle, as he was trusted by all parties concerned. His job ceased to be about the campaign, but the all-encompassing cover-up.
The ride gets really wild once Hunter becomes pregnant, with the cloak-and-dagger operation staying one step ahead of the mainstream media. There were private jets, 5-star hotels, donor mansions, spiritual advisors, and a seemingly endless stream of improper campaign funds used to pay for it all.
Young at this point must have known this was going to explode. So as a political person, he had covered his ass. He took unbelievably detailed notes, saved e-mails and voicemails (the nastiest ones were from Elizabeth), and saw the opportunity to write a book.
And as stated earlier, Young does nothing for added dramatic effect. The events themselves, the transcriptions of the messages, and the funneling of the money, are all dramatic enough.
Hunter wrote a book as well, What Really Happened, released this past May. But it's not on my to-do list. She seemed just as narcissistic as Edwards, and she seemed mostly unsympathetic throughout the read. Plus she's very new-agey and while I enjoy yoga and meditation as much as the next guy, it doesn't promise anywhere near what Young achieved here.
Now the whole sketchy mess is over, the trial is over, the Edwards/Hunter sex tape has been destroyed, and everyone has told their story. Andrew and Cheri Young reside with their three children in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Hopefully they are living peacefully, comfortably, and normally.