With a new Congress meeting, and the many new members hiring staff, these new hires could do a lot worse than read Andrew Young’s “The Politician.” It’s a horror story in the guise of a political memoir, about a career move gone bad.
Young was 26, a lawyer and dabbler in politics, when he met and was blown away by John Edwards, who was beginning his first run for the Senate but was the subject of much buzz as a possible president.
Young saw a cause, a career and the chance of a lifetime in getting in on the ground floor of history. He joined the campaign and asked for a job when the campaign was over. Assigned to the senator’s office in Raleigh, N.C., he became the driver and “body man.” And then things began to go wrong.
Time passed, and he realized he was acting less and less like a lawyer, and more and more like a valet. “I took care of their houses in Raleigh and at Figure Eight Island,” he tells us, where he repaired microwaves, checked and changed light bulbs and replaced shower doors.
Fresh from these political triumphs, he advanced to subcontractor when the Edwards family began building their infamous palace-size mansion, with Young picking out and installing the furniture. Later, a “plumbing disaster” took most of his time for some months.
Mrs. Young, a nurse and a sensible woman, asked why he was “serving as butler … shopper, and all-around handyman,” jobs she considered demeaning for a grown man and a lawyer, but he assured her it was all for the best.
“I truly believed John Edwards was going to be president … I knew that I had become indispensable … I believed that by staying close … I might rise along with him. ... I was doing my job the only way I knew, saying yes to every request and doing my best all the time.”
Edwards’ wife said he was like “family,” but “family slave” was a little more like it. On page 215, he compares himself to a frog in a pot of hot water that very slowly grows hotter. This comes 214 pages too late.
The pot got still hotter when Edwards met Rielle Hunter, and Young’s job became helping the candidate juggle his girlfriend and wife. He later found out Edwards had told the ailing Elizabeth that while he had a one-night fling with Rielle, she now was Young’s mistress, to explain why she was hanging around.
When Rielle became pregnant, Edwards insisted that Young claim that it was his baby: Edwards “wanted me to issue a statement taking responsibility for Rielle’s baby — to insist I was the father — and then disappear.”
Disappear he did, dragging his wife and three children with him to a series of hotels and safe houses in California, where they babysat Rielle through the length of her pregnancy. Rielle spent the time whining, describing her sex life and explaining her plans to live with John in the mansion once the first Mrs. Edwards passed on.
He was also sent to extract cash out of 99-year-old Bunny Mellon, a billionaire recluse and friend of Jackie O’s from the Camelot era, who saw John Edwards as JFK redux — no doubt on account of the hair.
Bunny had forked over millions to support Rielle’s wanderings (and was about to part with $50 million for a “poverty center” to advance John’s ambitions) when the whole tale hit the tabloids for which it always was headed. Young is now in disgrace, and Edwards is now facing criminal charges.
Put your trust not in princes, and neither in pols.
Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”