Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Money Madness - The Politician, Part III

Finished The Politician (today). When I began it a week or so ago, I expected it to be about Senator John Edwards and his recent fall into the abyss of his own making. And, of course, it was. But what I did not anticipate was the huge role that MONEY was going to play in Mr. Young's compelling narrative.

Like a shadowy character in a tragic three act play, money occupies a constant role in this strange, sordid story. It is the ever-present subtext of the events that surround the Senator, his wife, his mistress, Mr. Young, and all the other politicians, donors, helpers, friends, supporters and cronies that populate their weird little world.

The lunacy of these people's relationship to money unfolds in ever-increasing vividness as the tale gets told. These folks live in money, think in money, and turn to money as the solution to every problem and the means to every end. No wonder the government is printing it by the boat load. It makes their world go 'round.

The Bible asserts that "the love of money is the root of all evil." Again and again this timeless truth is played out in the dizzying series of events depicted in The Politician. At the center of the whirlpool are the rich, the super rich and the mega rich like Bunny Mellon. A widow in her 90's who becomes a True Believer in the Edwards myth, Mrs Mellon sends her private plane to fetch the Senator back to her estate for a personal meeting. We are told that the inside of the plane is decorated with paintings from the National Gallery. It seems that Mrs. Mellon is one of the institution's premier patrons.

Right from the top, Mr. Young, makes it clear that money is one of the key reasons he has even written this book at all. "My critics will say I am writing this book for money", Young observes. "They are partly right. The Edwards scandal has left me practically unemployable..." As he goes on to unpack the increasingly bizarre, deceptive and compromising events of the story he is telling, the Young confesses again and again that his participation in the chaos he helped create was fueled, at least in part, by his own appetite for money. It is stunning to see him talk himself, his wife, his family and a number of others into a wild array of lies, escapades and deceptions in the name of job security. After all, the ever-increasing demands of the lifestyle that came with his "success" required a continuous "whatever it takes" attitude.

At least the author is honest enough to admit his own weaknesses and foibles. But no such honesty seems to reside in John Edwards, his former boss and friend. What we see in him is a man who is so woefully vulnerable to his own self-deceptions that he comes across as a "double-minded man, unstable in all he does" (James 1: 8).

When events finally push Young's family and Rielle Hunter, Edward's pregnant mistress into hiding, the money factor goes to a frantic level. One hotel stay adds up to $18,000 in less than a week. There is another temporary hiding place -- a rented home in Santa Barbara -- that goes for a whopping $20,000 per month. Much of this money is supplied by another of Edward's loyal supporters, Fred Baron, who seems to have an endless supply of it ready to be employed for the Senator's ultimate benefit.

While it is easy to shake one's head while reading these dollar-soaked stories, it is good to remember that both Edwards and Young came from more humble roots. We would do well not to be smug as if we would be beyond such shenanigans until, presented with the same attractions, temptations and opportunities as these men and women are, we prove ourselves to be made of other stuff.

I plan to post a little bit more on this rather fascinating book. But I must say that, having now immersed myself somewhat in this alternative universe, I am quite ready to return to my own.

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