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COLUMNIST MAUREEN DOWD: John Edwards' painful-to-watch story continues

WASHINGTON -- Have you had your fill of gl?gg and Kaffebars, leather jackets with rivets and sausages with pickles? Do you want to hop off the tunnelbana and move on from feminist-socialist-journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his pals Eriksson, Svens...

WASHINGTON -- Have you had your fill of gl'gg and Kaffebars, leather jackets with rivets and sausages with pickles? Do you want to hop off the tunnelbana and move on from feminist-socialist-journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his pals Eriksson, Svensson, Johansson, Jonasson, Nilsson, Martensson, Magnusson, Ekstrom, Edklinth and that suspected lesbian Satanist Lisbeth Salander, the most literally riveting heroine in some time and the most famous doll-like, krona-drenched Swedish twin besides Tiger Woods's wife, Elin Nordegren?

Then you might consider some beach reading featuring unforgettable characters spilling sensational secrets -- but this time with simple names like Young and Edwards and familiar hangouts like Cracker Barrel and PetSmart.

Aaron Sorkin bought the rights to Andrew Young's memoir, "The Politician," which is apt since Young writes that John Edwards was inspired to become a politician after he saw Sorkin's "The American President."

Young's book is an amazingly sordid yarn about a fawning aide and the feckless pol he serves beyond all reason. The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible, as Oscar Wilde called foxhunting.

We learn that in this era of immersion coverage, we can still end up with a shallow view of our candidates and their real -- or Rielle -- lives.


A man like Edwards can be extremely close to ascending to the White House and still be camouflaging his true nature. To paraphrase Raymond Chandler, if character were elastic, John Edwards wouldn't have enough to make suspenders for a parakeet.

Once more putting the diss in dysfunction, Elizabeth Edwards last week promoted the paperback version of her best seller, "Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities," making her feelings of betrayal by her ex, her ex's mistress and her ex's sycophant perfectly clear.

It's tough to watch Elizabeth talk about her dirt-sandwich former mate because you have to wish her the best as she continues chemotherapy. She's suffered through the worst bêtes noires that can rip through a woman's life, and now, as she told Larry King, she feels sad about "the likelihood" she may live "the rest of my days without someone holding me in a passionate way."

But even before the scalding portrait of her in "Game Change" and "The Politician," strategists who had worked for her and her husband said she had rejected the idea of a campaign commercial featuring Edwards's mother and millworker father, dismissing them as hicks, just as she sometimes put her husband in his place by calling him a bumpkin.

"If I ever called him a hick, it was because he'd like to be called a hick, you know?" Elizabeth explained to King, in what seemed like a stretch. "Oh, you're such a hick, you know. You're such a country boy."

Indicating that she found Rielle Hunter's half-naked pictures in GQ distasteful, Elizabeth cast her as Lady Voldemort, barring King from mentioning the name of her husband's girlfriend. She said she would have accepted John's daughter with Rielle and been her stepmother if John and she had stayed together, but "now there's no reason really for me to."

Well, there is that little matter of 2-year-old Frances Quinn Hunter being the half-sister of Elizabeth's kids.

Elizabeth gave up on her 32-year marriage after making the supremely strange gesture of buying lavender soap for John to give to Frances Quinn to give to Rielle at Christmas. Speaking to People magazine, she did not dispute The National Enquirer's "sex-and-booze bender" story that John has been hitting on women in North Carolina bars.


Young is the anti-Iago, debasing himself for his boss, doing tasks like fetching the Christmas tree for their North Carolina mansion and meeting John at the airport with his favorite chilled wine.

In December 2007, the former senator called Young, saying that he needed to find a "way out of this thing," and outlined a scheme to outsource sin that made F. Scott Fitzgerald's careless Buchanans seem models of responsibility.

"I was dumbfounded," Young writes. "How, I asked, was I supposed to explain to my wife that I should confess to an affair I never had, claim an unborn child that was not mine, and then bring her along with our family as we attempted to vanish into thin air?"

They used Edwards's trial lawyer friend's private jet, and they bilked poor Bunny Mellon out of the money for their screwball flight to luxury hotels where Rielle could squander thousands -- and then the selfish Edwards didn't even go to Bunny's daughter's funeral.

Edwards told Young that it would be a one-day story and that they must be guided by a cause that was "bigger than any one of us" -- i.e., Edwards.

It's a cautionary tale both for those who fawn and for those who need to be fawned over. The man who preached about two Americas will be remembered for doing it with two faces.

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