Jim Bouchard's Reviews > The Politician: An Insider's Account of John Edwards's Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down

The Politician by Andrew  Young
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Oct 08, 2011

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In researching for one of my upcoming projects: Full Contact Ethics, I became fascinated with the story of Jonathan Edwards. The Politician by Andrew Young chronicles his misadventures with power, ego and deception. This book is a fascinating look at political and material power from an ethical perspective, but also serves as a cold slap in the face of our culture of success at all costs and our obsession with power, fame and wealth.

If this story were not so well documented, you might think this is a John Grisham thriller rather than a first-hand account written by a man who, blinded by ambition and ideological loyalty, found himself a pawn in the high-stakes game of national politics.

Although it reads like a novel, The Politician is unfortunately not a work of fiction. It’s a terrifying look inside the corruption of the American political system and the amorality of American high-society. Unlike a classic novel, there is no hero. At various times I was pissed off at every single reprehensible character in this rogue’s gallery:

John Edwards: The blindly ambitious megalomaniac
Andrew Young: The greedy and ambitious sycophant
Elizabeth Young: The schizophrenic, blindly ambitious accomplice
Reille Hunter: The parasitic, love-starved groupie
These are the people who are destroying whatever sense of decency, honesty and propriety we have left in our culture -- and they damn near attained the ultimate position of power in the free world.

The entire sordid story is disgusting – and I couldn’t put it down! I wanted to know why these people did what they did and how anyone could possibly reach the lowest levels of hypocrisy, cheating, lying and outright criminal deception. As compelling as this story is; there are no real answers. It’s difficult at times not to feel some sympathy for Andrew Young and his family, but that in itself is a horrifying realization!

Young knew what he was doing was wrong. I’d challenge you to read the book as an ethical exercise and to decide where, if at all, you would have chosen a different path than Young’s. It seems to me that this book might never have been written had Edwards and his minions been able to keep the story of his affair with Rielle Hunter under wraps. If Edwards had become president or vice-president, and that would not have been an unlikely possibility, Andrew Young may have continued to rationalize his role and may have justified his means through the ends.

Ultimately, this is not the story of an affair gone bad. Had any of these people had the moral courage to step up and end the charade, this might have been an uplifting tale. Had Edwards simply accepted responsibility for his actions he may have even gained esteem, garnered sympathy and may well have survived his indiscretions to eventually gain the White House.

This is a fascinating if terrifying look at American culture and society. Did our cult of personality create the perfect conditions that spawned this level of arrogance? Are we so morally bankrupt that we can empathize with anyone in this tragedy?

I cannot guarantee you’ll like The Politician and part of me resents that anyone is able to profit from this misadventure, but in the end I’m very glad I read it and if you care about American society and the future of our country, you’ll be glad you read it too.

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