About Utah: 'The Politician' made me want to keep the lights on at bedtime

Published: Monday, May 3 2010 1:29 a.m. MDT

Bookstores won't be filing "The Politician" in the horror section, but they should.

It's the first book I've read since "Christine" that made me want to keep the lights on when I went to bed.

It's about John Edwards, the man who would be president, and the infidelity scandal that brought him down. Andrew Young, Edwards' longtime aide and eventually spurned confidant, is the author.

That alone might make the content suspect — former employees with an ax to grind do not make the most objective storytellers.

But then there's the fact that Young himself comes off as a total idiot.

He ruefully but freely confesses he was blinded by ambition — Edwards' and his own — causing him to do things that in hindsight make Larry, Curly and Moe look brilliant.

At the affair's nadir, in an effort to save Edwards (and thus himself), he went so far as to claim paternity of the child his boss illegitimately fathered. In the annals of obsequious, truckling sycophants, Andrew Young is a man with few peers.

Young also freely confesses in print that he's afraid no one will ever hire him again — after what he admits to, he could be right — and he could really use the book royalties to feed his family.

None of this of course is novel. Aides write tell-alls. Politicians use and abuse their staff and cheat on their wives. Some of them, anyway. The other day, I counted up the men who have been president of the United States since World War II. There have been 13. Three of them had extramarital affairs we know about — FDR, JFK and Clinton — and if Eisenhower didn't, he was at least guilty of poor judgment by the way he carried on with Kay Summersby in England.

So that's almost a quarter of the men we've elected to lead the free world in the last 60 years. Hardly an aberration.

But what sets the Edwards saga apart, what qualifies it as haunting enough to make Stephen King's hair stand on end, is that he lied and cheated at the same time he was asking us to elect him president.

And he didn't just lie and cheat about his sex life. He was everything we didn't think he was. A pathological fabricator. The bookend to George Washington: He couldn't NOT tell a lie.

In what would rate as a minor part of the book, but that I found hugely telling, Young details an incident when Edwards is preparing for a presidential debate and worried that union workers might discover he isn't wearing an American-made suit. Instead of rectifying the situation by actually wearing an American-made suit, he takes the union label off the inside pocket of Young's suit and stitches it on his own custom-made suit from Italy.

Making the John Edwards Story even more chilling for me is that this isn't ancient history. Shakespeare didn't write it. This all happened within the last 10 years with a man Al Gore almost picked as his vice presidential candidate in 2000, who was John Kerry's choice for vice president in 2004 after he made his own strong run for the Democratic nomination and was a serious contender for president in 2008 alongside Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

You saw it. I saw it. John Edwards was the Eagle Scout of the candidates — a smiling, handsome, happily married, highly moral, God-fearing candidate of the common man who had legions of followers coast to coast.

Meanwhile, he was cheating on his wife of 30 years while she was battling breast cancer, and he was using millions raised from campaign donors so Young could cover it all up at least until his wife died and he could make it to the White House.

Guys like Kevin Garn, Utah's most recent disgraced-by-sex politician, will read Young's book and send Edwards a thank-you card. Even Tiger Woods must be going, "Whew! At least I'm not John Edwards."

It makes you wonder how much you ever really know about the politician you're voting for.

Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com.

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