Local Politics

Book portrays Edwards as egomaniac

Posted January 11, 2010 12:16 p.m. EST
Updated January 11, 2010 9:57 p.m. EST

— A book that began appearing in stores Monday provides more insight into the relationship between former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and former campaign staffer Rielle Hunter.

"Game Change," by veteran political journalists John Heilemann of New York Magazine and Mark Halperin of Time magazine, gives a candid and often brutal portrayal of the players in the 2008 presidential campaign, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. John McCain and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Barnes & Noble stores around the Triangle were out of the book Monday evening.

A chapter entitled "They Loooove Me" portrays Edwards, a former U.S. senator, as an egomaniac caught up in his presidential campaign fame. Staffers who worked with Edwards on a daily basis told the authors that he became more difficult to deal with as his popularity rose.

"Edwards loved the attention. He loved the attention of the camera. He loved the attention of the crowd, and that spiraled out of control," Raleigh political watchdog Joe Sinsheimer said Monday.

The Edwards campaign hired Hunter to produce promotional videos, and the book says Edwards "behaved as if she was a combination of an adviser and a spouse."

"Edwards swooned," the book says. "(He) gobbled up her every word like so much pop-psych popcorn."

Staffers said in the book that Edwards "ate every meal with her, sat next to her on the plane and in the car (and) offered to wheel her bags through airports. He told the staff to treat her like a principal."

Josh Brumberger, a 27-year-old campaign staffer, went to Edwards to warn him as aides noticed his flirtation with Hunter, according to the book.

"I'm not accusing you of anything," Brumberger is quoted in the book as telling Edwards. "But I need you to know there's a perception out there that you have a different relationship with Rielle than you do with everybody else."

The book notes that Edwards nodded and smiled reassuringly and told Brumberger, "I get it. Thank you. Say no more. I hear you loud and clear."

Brumberger was later fired from the campaign, and staffers noted in the book that nothing changed in the Edwards-Hunter relationship.

Neither Edwards nor his attorney could be reached Monday for comment.

"It's a terribly unflattering portrait," Sinsheimer said. "John Edwards came this close to becoming the next president of the United States, and that's kind of shocking and really speaks poorly about us as people."

"Game Change" also portrays Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, in an unflattering light, saying campaign staffers called her angry and controlling.

Edwards admitted in August 2008 – eight months after dropping out of the presidential race – that he had an affair with Hunter. He said the affair ended in 2006, and he has denied fathering her child.

The book also describes Edwards' desperate attempt to save his political career, quoting an adviser who warned him not to lie in his one and only interview about the affair.

"Edwards replied that he was going to confess to the affair but deny paternity of the child. He didn't want to jeopardize his chances of being Obama's attorney general," according to the book.

Another book, which is set for release on Feb. 2, alleges that Edwards is the father of Hunter's daughter. "The Politician: An Insider's Account of John Edwards's Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down" is being written by Andrew Young, who previously claimed to have fathered the child.

A federal grand jury in Raleigh is looking into how Edwards used campaign funds, including the possibility that some money was used to pay Hunter after the affair. Hunter spent nine hours at the federal courthouse in August while the grand jury was meeting, but it's unclear whether she testified because grand jury proceedings are secret.

Sources have told WRAL News that they expect Edwards to publicly admit paternity of the child, most likely after the investigation into the use of his campaign funds is over.