- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

THE POLITICIAN

By Andrew Young

St. Martin’s Press, $24.99, 302 pages

Reviewed by Peter Hannaford

@$:For nearly 10 years, Andrew Young disproved the adage that no man is a hero to his valet. He served John Edwards first out of idealism, then out of faith and loyalty and finally out of fear that he and his family would lose their livelihood and he would be unemployable.

This is no political kiss-and-tell book. It is a riveting memoir and a narrative about a politician’s Shakespearean fatal flaw.

The author’s childhood was happy. His father, chaplain of Duke University, was his idol and instilled in him the importance of living a life of ideals. Alas, when Andrew was finishing high school, it came out that his father was an adulterer. The marriage broke up. It left a great hole in Andrew’s life.

He stumbled through college, dropped out to work, returned and finished. Then came law school. In 1997, he met Cheri, his future wife. In summer 1998, he was working for the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, organizing events at its conference in Florida. John Edwards, who had just won the Democratic primary for U.S. senator, was to speak. Andrew Young listened intently. Thus began his 10-year journey from restored hero worship to reality.

He was mesmerized by this charming, good-looking, successful and persuasive orator. Mr. Young decided he would work for this man, signing on as a campaign volunteer. He constantly looked for ways to make himself useful. When Mr. Edwards won election, Mr. Young was invited to join his in-state staff in Raleigh.

He soon gained a reputation as an excellent organizer - efficient, thorough, discreet. He and the new senator toured the state together by automobile, forming a close bond. Elizabeth Edwards, the senator’s wife, began to rely on Mr. Young for everything from occasionally changing children’s diapers to making service arrangements for the Edwardses’ home. He had become seemingly indispensable.

The Young telephone rang at all hours with Mr. Edwards’ requests. He always said “yes,” ignoring the inconvenience, for his high performance meant a continued good job with which to support his wife and children.

He tried a transfer to Mr. Edwards’ office in Washington, but it didn’t suit him well. He didn’t get to know the capital city. In the book, he marvels at the Edwardses’ large home in Georgetown and then, several pages later, refers to it as being “on Embassy Row,” which is more than a mile from Georgetown. Soon, he and his family returned to North Carolina.

The scale of Mr. Edwards’ ambition became known to the author early in the Senate years. In the 2000 presidential campaign, Mr. Edwards, a senator for barely two years, and his wife plotted and stewed over the possibility that presidential nominee Al Gore would choose him as running mate. Apparently, he did make it to a fairly short list.

By 2004, the last year of his term, rather than running again for a job that did not really interest him, Mr. Edwards devoted himself to acquiring the second slot on the John Kerry ticket. According to the author, Mr. Edwards and Sen. Kerry did not much like each other, but Mr. Kerry appreciated the value of having a charismatic Southerner on the ticket to balance his own formal personality. Mr. Edwards joined the ticket, which lost.

After that, Mr. Edwards asked the author to set up and run a political action committee. Then Mr. Edwards and his wife, a cancer victim whose ailment by then was in remission, soon began methodical planning to win the 2008 presidential nomination.

Not long after the fledgling Edwards campaign operation was under way in 2006, a blond gold digger, Rielle Hunter, long on talk and New Age aphorisms and short on professional experience, turned up as a videographer. Soon, Mr. Edwards asked Mr. Young to have Ms. Hunter make her calls to Mr. Young, who would patch her through to the former senator. Thus, the calls could not be traced to phone records scanned by Mr. Edwards’ always curious and jealous wife. The author was tightly wrapped into the deception of an Edwards-Hunter affair, keeping it a secret (although several staffers suspected it).

Finally, just ahead of a big rally in North Carolina, Mrs. Edwards and Ms. Hunter encountered each other. Mrs. Edwards had heard that Ms. Hunter was working in the campaign; now she smelled a rat. She confronted her husband, who “confessed” that he had had a one-night fling with the woman but that she was really Andrew Young’s mistress. Mr. Young learned this after the fact. As with everything else, Mr. Young shared the information with his wife. Cheri Young, a former nurse, never stopped loving her husband, so she was loyal and levelheaded throughout the ordeal that was to ensue.

Before long, Ms. Hunter’s pregnancy was apparent. Mrs. Edwards’ cancer had come back. She and her husband evoked widespread sympathy when they announced this, along with the decision that he would continue with his campaign. (He was running ahead in most polls.) Her bravery was lauded.

Behind the scenes, Mrs. Edwards cut Andrew Young out of the campaign and sent him and his wife snide messages. When she confronted her husband about the pregnancy, he “confessed” that Andrew Young was the father. This sent her into a frenzy. She did everything possible to besmirch Mr. Young. Again, the author learned of this new Edwards lie after the fact.

Then Mr. Edwards arranged for the Young family and Ms. Hunter to flee until after her baby was delivered. First Florida, finally California for many weeks. When the Young family returned home, the author had his final meeting with Mr. Edwards, who had dodged calling Ms. Hunter when her baby - his daughter - was born.

The author writes, “After watching and hearing John Edwards practice a thousand little deceptions and tell a thousand different lies … I finally recognized that he didn’t care about anyone other than himself.” Andrew Young finally had met reality. As for John Edwards, he has admitted publicly that he is the baby’s father. Is this the beginning of repentance? Time will tell.

Peter Hannaford is the author of five books on the late President Reagan.

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