The Politician Review
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As a one-time political activist turned political cynic, when I first heard of the John Edwards scandal, I initially saw it as “politics as usual.” When my mother asked me to order a copy of Andrew Young’s account of working with the senator for her, I complied, but I refused to get sucked into what I thought was Washington gossip. However, when The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down finally arrived at my doorstep, I just had to take a peek. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there, and Mom would just have to wait for her book.

We all know the story. Senator Edwards was running for the Democratic presidential nomination when his wife, Elizabeth, was stricken with cancer. Though the couple agreed that he would continue his campaign, the nation admired him for standing by this wife. However, his honorable character turned out to be a façade, as he had a rather indiscreet affair during Elizabeth’s illness. Of course, that’s not the half of it. His mistress, Rielle Hunter, became pregnant and took the upper hand. The shocking part of it, though, was that, in order to protect the presidential hopeful, his long-time aide, Young, signed an affidavit stating that he was the father of the baby. Even more absurd was that John Edwards eventually turned his back on Young and his family.

The obvious question is: why would Young, a dedicated family man, agree to fake the paternity? This is what he attempts to explain in his book. Young describes how he met Edwards during the 1998 senatorial campaign and, from there, became his closest aide and friend. He would do anything for the senator and his wife, since he believed in Edwards—and that his career success was tied to that of the senator. This is where he could have gotten stuck in an insignificant autobiography, but Young manages to stay on-topic and keep the reader wanting more. I was hooked.

Young explains his thought process as his life unraveled, as well as his perception of the people involved. This includes how he let himself be mesmerized and manipulated by Edwards. Though many criticize his account of Elizabeth, I found it to be even-handed. Yes, he illustrates her dark side, but he also acknowledges her positive qualities, such as commitment, brains, strength, and courage. But he has no sympathy for—and nothing positive to say about—Rielle Hunter, a new-ager who had her own demented set of values.

No matter how fervently Andrew Young tries to convince the reader why he put all of his trust in Edwards, I still didn’t buy it. It didn’t matter, though. They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and that is the case of The Politician. This is one book that I absolutely couldn’t put down. It presents a fascinating look at Washington politics: the backstabbing and the sense of entitlement that our representatives have.

I recommend this book to all Americans. Not only did The Politician reinforce my cynicism, but I will go a step further than Young did. It reminded me that we must hold our leaders accountable—and not be fooled or pulled in by their charisma.

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