Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Shitbag Trio

Last week, former campaign aide Andrew Young (not to be confused with the Civil Rights leader and former Mayor of Atlanta) to John Edwards finally released his tell-all book on what it was like to work for a douchebag. I was really excited about this book when I first heard about one being in the works, because from what I learned about the scandal, Young appears to be someone like me: an idealistic and loyal guy who dreams of the ultimate gig of being a personal aide to a career-long politician he admires. That has been my dream since 1993 when I first saw the excellent documentary, The War Room, about the Clinton campaign. The documentary focused on George Stephanopoulos and James Carville and in watching it, I found exactly what I wanted for my career (I had placed all my hopes and dreams on being the Stephanopoulos guy for Gore in 2000).

I feel a natural affinity for people who have similar traits and ambitions as me. On Saturday, I went to Borders to get a look at this book to see if I would buy it. Unfortunately, its pretty thin (around 300 pages) with no index (a non-fiction book without an index is a huge strike against it, in my opinion). I can certainly wait for it to come out in paperback, my preferred format for most books. I decided to read through it for the good parts, instead. I'd like to read the whole thing, but I'll have to see if the library has a copy of it. Otherwise, I will buy it if Andrew Young goes on a book tour and makes Powell's City of Books one of his stops (because I really want to talk with him).

The reason why I'm using a crude title for today's title is because it was the first thought that came to my mind after I had read several sections of Young's book, The Politician. By Shitbag Trio, I'm referring to: Rielle Hunter; John and Elizabeth Edwards. All three of them are worthless pieces of shit and I know its not a very spiritual thing for me to say about them, but I can't tell you how disgusted I am at all three of them for conspiring to keep this dark secret while John Edwards sought the presidency. I'm glad that the Democratic caucus voters in Iowa looked past any possible racial bias and selected Obama. Perhaps they learned their lesson when they chose John Kerry over Howard Dean in 2004 and saw how that turned out in the end (Kerry is another douchebag). Had Edwards won Iowa, it might have changed the outcome of the primaries, and of course, had Edwards been the Democratic nominee, the Republican Party would have had a field day in the general election with the "rumours" of the affair that was initially ignored by the major media.

In 2003, after Gore had indicated that he was not running again, I was an aspiring political aide in search of a campaign to volunteer for. I was leaning towards John Edwards at the time. I had heard of Howard Dean when I was an intern in 2000, because there was talk about his interest in running for president. He had decided not to run in 2000, but threw his hat into the ring in 2003. Sometime that summer, I received an email indicating that the Dean campaign was setting up official announcement parties in various cities. I attended the one in Atlanta. I was shocked to see a plate of small sandwiches being offered. Even better, they had mozzarella and tomato sandwiches! You know how rare that is for anyone to offer this kind of sandwich?!? When I told a friend of mine (Jantzen from the Washington Seminar) about this, he joked that I only supported Howard Dean because of the mozzarella and tomato sandwich. Ha! He's so funny that way. (Sidenote...nothing tastes as great together as mozzarella and tomatoes. Italy spoiled me!).

During the live broadcast of Dean's speech in Vermont, I was impressed with this Doctor-turned-Governor from one of the most liberal states in our union. He hit all the main points in his announcement speech that I had been wanting to hear a Democrat say in the previous few years. His most popular line was taken from the late Senator Paul Wellstone: "I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." For those outside the party, there was an ongoing fight between the liberal / progressive wing and the centrist, corporate lobbyist DLC wing. After the speech was over, there was no doubt in my mind. I was a loyal Dean guy. So loyal, in fact, that after he had suspended his campaign, Georgia primary voters hadn't even had a chance to make their voices known. The race came down to the two Johns (Kerry versus Edwards), but I still voted for Howard Dean. My dad said that I wasted my vote, as he had voted for Edwards to stop Kerry. I voted on principle. I couldn't stand Kerry (still can't).

Kerry only won my vote in the fall election by default. I held my nose, told myself I was voting for the Vice Presidential candidate on the ticket (John Edwards) and that this election was nothing more than a referendum on President Bush. In essence, I voted for the Democratic Party in 2004 only as a "vote of No Confidence in President Bush's leadership." My preferred election result was that Kerry would win the electoral college vote and Bush win the popular vote, just so Bush could argue the opposite of his position in 2000, thus showing people just how fraudulent he was (the Bush campaign did have plans to contest the 2000 election results if it went that way).

When the 2008 election rolled around, my head was with Hillary Clinton but my heart was with Barack Obama. I thought it was pointless for Edwards to run, though maybe he counted on the bigots and chauvinists to support his campaign. I knew my party was ready for a historical candidacy of a female or an African American presidential candidate. The difficulty was deciding which one should get the honours this election cycle. Edwards kind of fell out of my favour, anyway because of several things. Since he was the Vice Presidential candidate in 2004, he could not run for reelection on his Senate seat, which meant that losing the big race left him without a job. What did he do in the aftermath of that decision? He did two things that contradicted himself.

The first thing he did was form his own organization "devoted to eradicating poverty." It seemed like a convenient issue to keep his name in the press. Plus, it had a hint of Robert F. Kennedy. But that was a shallow comparison, because Edwards is not nor can ever be mistaken for Robert F. Kennedy. It was a moot point, anyway, because after the 2004 defeat, the Edwards family traded their mega-mansion for a ginormous mega-mansion. We're talking castle-huge. Rumour has it that across the road from their new residence is a trailer park. That's truly in tacky taste (flaunting your wealth to the impoverished people who can only afford to live in a mobile home). Its hard to be taken seriously as an advocate for the poor when you trade up a mega-mansion for more house than one family could possibly need and build it near a trailer park. According to Young, as soon as the house was built, John and Elizabeth realized they had a cash flow problem, as the sprawling estate cost a lot to maintain. Ya think? Proof that Edwards was not so visionary as his mistress thought he was.

To make matters worse, John Edwards got a $400 haircut. As a wealthy man, he, of course has the right to spend that much on a haircut if he wanted to, but again, it negates his claim to be an advocate for the poor. Doing stuff like that only rubs in poor people's faces that you have more money than they'll ever see. In these tough economic times, $400 would buy a lot of groceries for people who are having trouble keeping their families fed. These things only showed me just how shallow a candidate John Edwards is, despite his talk about being for the people in his famous "Two Americas" speech that won him a lot of critical acclaim. Also, this act showed that he learned nothing from President Clinton, who received a lot of criticism for his expensive haircut during his first year in office.

The most baffling thing of all, which goes to the heart of just how desperately callous the Edwards are, was when Elizabeth was diagnosed to have cancer again. This was their perfect exit. No one would have thought less of them for bowing out of the race (this occurred in 2007, well before the votes began in Iowa and New Hampshire). They have young children, so one would think that enjoying being a family in the time she had left, without the intrusion of a political campaign is the right thing to do. Nope. John's presidential ambitions came first, family crisis be damned. The Edwards did receive some criticism for not getting out of the race. Only later did we learn the news that makes this decision to stay in the fight much worse. According to the timeline, Elizabeth had learned of John's affair with Rielle Hunter before her cancer relapsed. This is the reason why I include her in "The Shitbag Trio." She was a willing conspirator in service of her husband's ambitions. Despite the personal hurt she must have felt and the devastating blow to learn of cancer's return, she was willing to risk the Democratic Party's chances in the 2008 election by carrying on the lie.

Many people have said how much they admired her, as she had favorable press, but I simply never bought into it. There is no way she can redeem her actions. Cancer or not, seeing her husband as president was more important than anything else: her family's well-being, her own physical health, the best interests of the party, and most of all, the best interests of the United States of America. Knowing what our country went through because of Clinton's affair and how that cost Gore the 2000 election, she was willing to put our country through that whole thing again. Republicans have no qualms about reminding voters that they are the party of moral family values, which idiots believe and vote for, despite evidence to the contrary. The only way for Democrats to defeat this Republican myth is by being faithful. None of this figured into their plans. Yet, only someone so incredibly narcissistic would risk it all, not expecting the truth to come out eventually.

Then there's Rielle Hunter (above left), the self-described "Party girl-turned-New Age-practitioner." Andrew Young's descriptions of her matches my impressions based on articles I've read about this disturbing lady. According to an article I had read a couple years ago, Rielle was big on New Age spirituality and believed that John Edwards was a Gandhi-like leader who would change our world with his visionary leadership. Edwards never gave me that kind of vibe. Gandhi? Seriously? Of course, I've never met Edwards, but I think his reputation as a primping pretty boy is probably accurate (hilarious YouTube videos show him spending more time combing his hair than a beauty pageant contestant). Its probably more accurate to say that Hunter had a school-girl crush on him and mistook a bedshaking passionate affair for earth-shattering leadership.

According to Young, Hunter was a needy, materialistic lady who spoke in Valley Girl style (with inflections at the end of sentences, like she's asking a question all the time). She also called her New Age guru for all kinds of advice, including whether or not she should eat a reuben sandwich with a certain kind of mustard. Talking with her guru cost a lot of money per phone call. She also insisted on driving a certain kind of BMW and living in a mansion in Santa Barbara. She was expensive in her tastes, which should have red-flagged anyone that there was nothing spiritually authentic about her. She gives New Age spirituality a bad name. My guess is that she was a gold digging party girl facing mid-life with her biological clock ticking loudly. She probably read the book The Secret and was so taken by the material success the book promised readers that she fell into New Age spiritualism. True spiritual people don't need a guru to tell them what decisions to make and they certainly wouldn't pay astronomical rates by the hour for their advice.

Young wrote in his book that Hunter would fly into rages everytime she saw John on television praising his wife. Really, woman? You're the mistress, not the wife. He only wanted you for sexual escapades, not a relationship. Women who fall into mistress relationships thinking it will lead to marriage are the stupidest people on the planet. Its all about the sex, bee-yatch!

Here's where Young and his family is put through hell. John assigns his political aide the job of mistress-sitting to keep an eye on her so that she doesn't go to the media with her story or show up to embarrass him in public. Rielle can't call John, but has to wait for his calls for discrete rendezvous. Its amazing that a political aide would go through those lengths to keep his boss's secret. The price of loyalty, of being part of the politician's inner circle. I'm certain that I would not go to the same lengths. For one thing, Rielle Hunter just seems like a whiny, materialistic and phony bitch and I'd have way too much fun toying with her emotions. Secondly, my feeling is that if I ever found a politician to be a loyal aide to, I would set conditions at the start. These are things I had thought in the aftermath of the Lewinsky scandal in 1998. I'd tell a politician looking to hire me: "Listen, I'm a pretty loyal guy but I will not violate my conscience to cover up any dark sides of your personality. I won't go to jail for you and I won't lie for you but I will keep you honest. Think of me as your Jiminy Cricket." Hmmm...maybe that's why I still haven't found a job as a political aide!

If I have the opportunity to meet Andrew Young (above right), I'd ask him if he thought his experience was worth the dream of being a political aide. Or is it simply something best to avoid? In his book, he said that his wife is apolitical and only agreed to the demands Edwards put on him because she loved her husband and wanted to see him get his dream career. That's not to say that she enjoyed it, as Rielle Hunter's neediness and demands were annoying. This book is a cautionary tale against the impositions put upon an idealistic and loyal aide by the narcissism of a politician with a strong shadow personality that won't be contained.

The ultimate demand has to be Young agreeing to claim that he is the father of Rielle's baby. When the news story first broke, most people found this revelation lacking credibility, especially since Rielle insisted that she would not seek a paternity test on her baby. What kind of mother would not want to know who the father of her baby is? For the sake of the child's genetic history alone, this statement was incredible. It was obvious that she was playing by someone's rules of silence. Rumours of hush money accompanied this story, with people who donated to the Edwards campaign outraged by the possibility that their money might have been used in a cover-up. Recently, Edwards finally admitted that he is the father of Rielle Hunter's baby, which was about as surprising as Palin landing a gig at the Fox Propaganda Network.

Its amazing that politicians think they can keep this stuff in the dark. This is where the use of logic comes in handy. It didn't take a genius to figure out that John Edwards had an affair with Rielle Hunter, gave her a baby, and then made his aide take responsibility for it in order to maintain the lie to his wife and family. Though all of this came out well after he had dropped out of the race in 2008, it most likely cost him the Attorney General job he had coveted in the Obama Administration. Thank God for that! I hope that his public service career is over forever. There's no reason for him to have a comeback in public life. He blew it and he blew it big time. There are far too many more talented people out there who deserve a chance at public office. Edwards is a rich man, whose wife is finally divorcing him. The best hope we can have is that our public sphere is not polluted by these three shitbags ever again.

One passage that I was most interested in reading was how Young presents the information about the 2000 "veepstakes" when Edwards supposedly made Al Gore's vice presidential short-list. According to an article I had read about Gore with a direct quote, Gore was asked later about John Edwards. Gore had said something to the effect of: "A millionnaire might be able to buy a Senate seat, but that doesn't mean he's qualified to be vice president." My impression of what I've read and what I know about Gore is that Edwards did not impress Gore. Maybe Gore even found Edwards to be shallow (all image, little substance).

According to the book, Young claims that Gore was going to select Edwards but at the last minute changed his selection to Joseph Lieberman. Apparently, Edwards believes that Gore was afraid that he would upstage Gore and that the power brokers in the Democratic Party were also dead set against his selection and favoured Lieberman. I find this view to be a huge stretch, as I believe Lieberman's selection did two major things for Gore: make history as the first Jewish candidate to be on a presidential ticket and Lieberman's conservative morals would only help Gore distance himself from the stain of Clinton's transgressions. It wasn't the selection I preferred (I was a big Evan Bayh advocate, and I still believe that Bayh would have secured Gore's electoral vote by possibly picking up Indiana's electoral vote), but it did make history.

The trouble with shallow people is that they often don't realize that they are shallow. The Edward episode, however, shows how different the Democratic Party is from the Republican Party. He's become a persona-non-grata among Democrats. His electoral career is over and he probably has few supporters. His Republican equivalent (that would be Sarah Palin) is beloved by a rabid fan base who won't abandon her no matter how many inconsistencies, illogical statements, moral lapses, and reports on her dysfunctional family life appears in the press. In fact, the opposite happens. The more scandalous she is, the more her fanbase loves her, despite their obsession with morality. If you bring up her scandals to her supporters, they'll throw John Edwards back at you, expecting that you'll play party politics and defend him. Nope. Democrats don't promote shitbags. We know bad news when we see it.

Good riddance, Edwards family. May your dark shadows never cloud our skies ever again.

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