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A Bit More on Andrew Young

Michelle's already flagged Ben Smith's Politico piece on the Andrew Young-John Edwards soap opera, but I just wanted to add my two cents--or, at the very least, get a blog post out of my one Andrew Young story.

Although I met him a handful of times over the years in the course of reporting about Edwards--as Smith's piece documents, Young was one of those guys who was always just sort of around--it was my first encounter with him that sticks in my head. It was early 2001 and I was doing a profile of Edwards, who, although still fairly new to the Senate, was pretty clearly getting geared up to run for president in '04. For the piece, Edwards's press secretary had arranged for me to spend the day with the Senator as he did a series of events around the Piedmont Triad. Young, who worked in Edwards's North Carolina office at the time, was serving as the Senator's driver.

There were two things that struck me about Young as he chauffeured us around the Piedmont: First, he was a lawyer; given Edwards's Southern populism, I guess I expected that the Senators' driver would be more Sugar-Boy O'Sheean than Atticus Finch. Second, he was slavishly--I mean, slavishly--devoted to Edwards, catering to his every whim and need. This was no body man; this was a manservant.

The thing that most impressed me about Young, strangely enough, was his driving. Edwards had a pretty full schedule that day, with meetings and speeches in Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem, and Young was logging a lot of miles--many of them on some pretty back roads--to get the Senator everywhere he needed to be. This was before the days of GPS, and I remember at one point being so impressed with Young's sense of direction that I asked him if he was from around these parts. He told me he was actually from the Triangle and hadn't spent much time in the Triad, but then he went on to explain, with unmistakable pride in his voice, that the day before he'd driven out to the Piedmont on his own to do a dry-run of the routes he was going to take, lest he make any wrong turns when Edwards was in the car. I remember being impressed--and also a bit creeped out.

Some six years later, when the rumors first started to surface that John Edwards had an affair with Rielle Hunter, I didn't believe them. But then Andrew Young entered the picture--with his claim that he was the father of Hunter's child--and that was when it dawned on me that the rumors were true. If there was anyone who'd be willing to take that bullet for Edwards, it was Andrew Young.

I suspect that most politicians (or famous athletes or movie stars) have someone like Young in their lives, a person who will do anything for them. Celebrity is a weird--and warping--thing. I hold out hope that, for most of his life, Edwards was a normal, decent guy (which is certainly how I thought of him until the truth of his affair came out); that, until a couple years ago, until he'd been fundamentally warped by fame, the most Edwards asked of Young was to fetch him Diet Cokes and not take any wrong turns. Guys like Young are ripe targets for abuse and exploitation; and while Edwards displayed despicable behavior toward lots of people in this whole sordid affair, I think his treatment of Young was, in a way, among the most despicable. In other words, I hope Young's book is a bestseller.