More Stories From “Game Change” Including Clinton Sleaze and Conflict Between Obama and Biden

More items from Game Change have come out since my run down yesterday. These include more examples of sleaze from the Clinton campaign and conflict between Obama and Biden.

While Hillary Clinton tried to disassociate herself from the smears against Obama based upon drug use when young, Mark Penn boasted to his staff how many times he managed to say “cocaine” on Hardball. Hillary was pleased by this:

“Hillary’s reaction to Shaheen’s remarks was, ‘Good for him!’ Followed by ‘Let’s push it out.’  Her aides violently disagreed, seeing what Shaheen had said as a PR disaster. Grudgingly, Clinton acquiesced to disowning Shaheen’s comments. But she wasn’t going to cut him loose. Why should Billy have to fall on his sword for invoking something that had been fair game in every recent election?”

While yesterday’s post dealt with John Edwards’ affair, there is also a section with McCain’s aides confronting Cindy McCain about her affair:

“The man was said to be her long-term boyfriend; the pair had been sighted all over town in the last few years. Members of McCain’s senior staff discussed the unsettling news, and their growing concerns that Cindy’s behavior had been increasingly erratic of late. [John] Weaver and others suspected that the Cindy rumor was rooted in truth. It was upsetting, Weaver believed, but not a threat.”

The Obamas flew to Nashville to get Al Gore’s assurance that he would not run before Obama decided to run. While the McCain campaign had problems with Sarah Palin’s ignorance, the Obama campaign had problems of their own with Biden’s mouth. From Politico:

The tensions began in September of 2008 word got back to Obama’s campaign headquarters that Biden had told reporters on his campaign plane that he was more qualified than his running mate to be president.

“A chill set in between Chicago and the Biden plane,” Halperin and Heilemann write in the book, to be released Monday. “Joe and Obama barely spoke by phone, rarely campaigned together.”

And when Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was asked about having Biden dial into the nightly campaign conference call, he responded: “Nah.” Instead, Biden had his own call with Plouffe and senior campaign adviser David Axelrod.

Obama himself was growing increasingly frustrated with his running mate after Biden let loose with a string of gaffes, including a statement that paying higher taxes amounted to patriotism and criticism of one of the campaign’s own ads poking fun at John McCain.

But when Biden, at an October fund-raiser in Seattle, famously predicted that Obama would be tested with an international crisis, the then-Illinois senator had had enough.

“How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?” he demanded of his advisers on a conference call, a moment at which most people on the call said the candidate was as angry as they had ever heard him.

Following his campaign plane braggadocio about being more qualified than the man who put him on the ticket, Biden’s access to the press was limited and he grilled new staffers that were assigned to him to try and determine if they were part of his team or loyal to Chicago…

When the ticketmates talked a few days after Biden’s prediction that Obama would be tested, Obama lit into his running mate. But Biden didn’t apologize – or even indicate he understood why his comments in Seattle were problematic, though McCain’s campaign had already cut an ad featuring the dark warning.

I noted both the low opinion of John Edwards by Democratic Party leaders as well as the conflict between John and Edwards over John’s affair in the previous post. These two narratives also came  together here:

There were apparently “two Americas” within the marriage between John and Elizabeth Edwards. The former North Carolina senator’s wife viewed herself as a worldly intellectual and publicly called her husband “a hick” and his parents “rednecks,” according to the authors.

“She was forever letting John know she regarded him as her intellectual inferior,” they write, mocking her husband, the presidential hopeful, as somebody who “doesn’t read books.”

“Game Change” Has Embarrassing Moments For the Clintons, the Edwards, Harry Reid, and Sarah Palin

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin doesn’t come out until Tuesday but advance copies are out. Marc Ambinder has some of the juiciest portions:

Hillary Clinton had a “war room within a war room” to deal with Bill’s libido:

The war room within a war room dismissed or discredited much of the gossip floating around, but not all of it. The stories about one woman were more concrete, and after some discreet fact-finding, the group concluded that they were true: that Bill was indeed having an affair — and not a frivolous one-night stand but a sustained romantic relationship.  …. For months, thereafter, the war room within a war room braced for the explosion, which her aides knew could come at any moment.

The identity of the woman is not revealed.

Harry Reid has already issued an apology for this:

[His] encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” as he said privately.  Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

Barack Obama has accepted the apology:

Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry’s apology without question because I’ve known him for years, I’ve seen the passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.

Ambinder summarized the material on John Edwards’ affair:

I would be remiss if I did not point to the chapters about the unbelievably dysfunctional husband and wife team of John and Elizabeth Edwards.  Not only, it turns out, did many senior Edwards staffer suspect that John was having an affair, several confronted John Edwards about it, and came away believing the rumors.  At least three campaign aides resigned because of their knowledge of the affair well before the national media picked up on those early National Enquirer stories.

And John and Elizabeth (who the book says was known to Edwards insiders as “abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending, crazywoman”) fought, in front of staffers, about the affair. The authors describe a moment where Elizabeth, in a such a state of fury, deliberately tears her blouse in the parking lot of a Raleigh airport terminal, “exposing herself. ‘Look at me,” she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.” (That’s page 142.)   (This was in October, by the way, well before the media took the reports of the Hunter affair seriously.)

New York Magazine has an extended excerpt from the book on John Edwards. Long time readers of this blog may recall that even before the scandal broke I considered Edwards to be a light weight and a phony who had no place on a national ticket (and realistically was not even fit to be a Senator). Apparently many Democratic leaders agreed with my feeling in 2003 that neither Clinton or Edwards would make satisfactory candidates:

Edwards never expected to be the third wheel in 2008. The race was going to be Hillary versus him. That was how he saw it from the start. She would be the front-runner, of course. But as sure as night follows day, there would be an alternative, an anti-Hillary, and he would be it.

The Democratic Establishment agreed that there would be—and certainly should be—a viable challenger to Clinton. The party’s pooh-bahs on Capitol Hill were privately terrified about the prospect of Hillary rolling to the nomination. They feared that she was too polarizing to win, that she would drag down House and Senate candidates in red and purple states; and they worried, too, about Bill’s putative affairs. But while the Clintons themselves regarded Edwards as Hillary’s most formidable rival, there existed a deep wariness about the North Carolinian among his fellow Democrats. In the Senate, in particular, Edwards was regarded almost universally by his former colleagues as a callow, shallow phony. Quietly, the Establishment began a quest to find a different alternative, eventually settling on the unlikely horse that was Obama—with Harry Reid personally, and secretly, urging the Illinois senator to run against Clinton.

Ben Smith reveals why Ted Kennedy was so mad at Bill Clinton:

[A]s Hillary bungled Caroline, Bill’s handling of Ted was even worse. The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

This is reminiscent of  Clinton’s racist attacks on Obama as the campaign heated up.

The book is full of stories of Sarah Palin’s ignorance.

In the days leading up to an interview with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson, aides were worried with Ms. Palin’s grasp of facts. She couldn’t explain why North and South Korea were separate nations and she did not know what the Federal Reserve did. She also said she believed Saddam Hussein attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Anderson Cooper has interviewed former McCain campaign  adviser Steve Schmidt for a story on 60 Minutes regarding the upcoming book. Schmidt said that Palin’s preparation for the debate with Joe Biden was going so badly that they feared “the debate was going to be a debacle of historic and epic proportions. … She was not focused … not engaged.”  She also had trouble remembering her debate opponent’s name:

Sarah Palin’s charming opening debate line for now-Vice President Joe Biden — “Hey, can I call you Joe?” — was scripted after she repeatedly referred to him as “O’Biden” in preparation sessions, former McCain campaign senior adviser Steve Schmidt told “60 Minutes.”

Update: More from Game Change

The Contributions of John Kerry

John Kerry was kicked around by the left far more than he deserved both in 2004 and after his close loss to George Bush. The previous post notes the quiet contributions John Kerry has made to the health care reform legislation. He has also been hard at work in other areas including climate change and on foreign policy. I supported John Kerry in 2004 because of many of the qualities he has shown since losing–not because he was the most flashy or charismatic candidate.

Gail Collins compares Kerry to Joe Lieberman and now regrets much of what she said about Kerry in the past:

I frequently made fun of Kerry for being a terrible presidential candidate. Which he was. But there comes a point when we the people have to move on. And Kerry has been a really good former failed presidential candidate. He’s been working hard in the Senate on climate control and trying to help the White House on foreign relations, despite the fact that Barack Obama stiffed him out of the secretary of state job in favor of a person who had been somewhat less supportive than Kerry of Obama’s early presidential aspirations. He actually seems more interested in doing stuff than being admired.

Lieberman was a terrible vice presidential candidate. (Like John Edwards, he not only lost his vice presidential debate, he managed to make Dick Cheney seem likable.) But instead of going back to something he could actually do well, he ran for president. He failed to gain any traction with the voters whatsoever, and like John McCain, he came out of the process bitterly denying that he was bitter.

Let’s look at our two failed-national-candidate models. You can move on, and try to make yourself useful (Kerry, Al Gore). Or you can work out barely suppressed rage by attacking things that you used to be for, like trying to control Medicare costs (McCain) or expanding Medicare eligibility (Lieberman).

Maybe the difference comes from self-image. Lieberman and McCain both thought of themselves as “character” candidates whose success was due to the love and trust of the public, and whose ultimate failure was the work of evil forces beyond their control. Kerry and Gore never believed their success was due to their innate likability. When they lost the presidency, a part of them probably shrugged and remembered that they weren’t all that popular in prep school, either.

Considering that Kerry came closest of any challenger to a sitting president during time of war I wouldn’t be so hard on him as a failed candidate. I have no idea how popular he was in prep school, and that is hardly meaningful. What counts is the work Kerry has done in the Senate in recent years, following the path of another Senator from Massachusetts who wanted to be president but was unable to–Ted Kennedy.

Jenny Sanford Files For Divorce, Edwards Kicks Out Mistress and Love Child, And The Day’s Other Scandal News

Jenny Sanford has announced she if filing for a divorce:

“As so many of us know, the dissolution of any marriage is a sad and painful process. It is also a very personal and private one. Because Mark and I are public figures, we have naturally had less privacy with which to deal with our difficulties than do other couples. Indeed, I know it will soon become known so I choose to release this brief notice that I am now filing for divorce. This came after many unsuccessful efforts at reconciliation, yet I am still dedicated to keeping the process that lies ahead peaceful for our family.

“I remain thankful to so many across this state and nation for their words of encouragement and prayers during this difficult time. Please know the boys and I are doing well and are blessed with the incredible support of friends and family and bolstered by our faith and the unfailing love of our God above.”

In somewhat related news, Eliot Spitzer is considering running for state comptroller and Tiger Woods is taking a hiatus from golf. John Edwards remains the sleaziest of them all. He cheated on his wife who was fighting cancer, had a baby with Rielle Hunter and denied paternity, and now has tossed Hunter and their daughter out on the street after Hunter demanded too much money.

Gallup Finds (No Surprise) That Both Edwards and Palin Are Polling Poorly

Gallup is apparently desperate to drive traffic to their site to read about a rather trivial poll with the headline. The popularity of a politician right now, as opposed to when they are actually campaigning for office, is of some but not tremendous interest. Gallup reports that “John Edwards, Sarah Palin Both See Favorable Ratings Slide.”

It is somewhat of interest that Sarah Palin’s approval numbers are so low, but she has barely begun to do whatever she planned to do when she resigned as Governor. Such numbers will be far more significant once she is actually running for something. Besides, the poll shows that, despite a low approval, she remains competitive with Romney and Huckabee in the virtually meaningless polling on the 2012 nomination.

It is no surprise that Edwards’ popularity has dropped tremendously, and it is doubtful he will ever be elected to any office again.

Besides dropping in popularity, the two have little in common. Sure both are former vice presidential candidates and both are partially known for their hair, but otherwise their careers at this point have little in common. John Edwards’ popularity has dropped because he was caught cheating on his wife who is fighting cancer. Sarah Palin’s popularity has dropped because every time she opens her mouth, or posts about “death panels” on Facebook, she shows that she is unfit for national office. Most likely Edwards has given up on running for office while Palin is probably looking towards running in 2012. It makes little sense to include the two in the same poll. I’m just not sure which of the two should feel more insulted by being lumped with the other.

Edwards and Letterman Sex Scandals Dominate News


Two affairs dominate the news and gossip today. The first is the latest on John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter. I hate to use The National Enquirer as a source, but so far they they have been right with regards to the news they have broken on the affair. John certainly gave Elizabeth plenty of reason to leave him, but she had stuck with him after the news of his affair came out. According to the report in The National Enquirer, finding out that he has had other affairs was the last straw. Previous reports claimed that Elizabeth made John sleep in the barn after learning of the affair and has been bashing Hunter in anonymous blog comments. Now she reportedly is planning to divorce him and reveal all the dirty secrets of his political career:

Elizabeth Edwards has finally had enough – she’s threatened to divorce her cheating husband John and claim her share of their $53 million fortune!

The ENQUIRER has learned Elizabeth dropped the divorce bombshell after learning a former campaign aide is claiming Rielle Hunter, the mother of Edwards’ love child, isn’t the only woman he seduced on the campaign trail!

Furious at his betrayals, Elizabeth – still battling Stage 4 breast cancer – has vowed to destroy her husband of 32 years by disclosing everything she knows about his political career in divorce court, insiders say.

“Elizabeth had always sworn she wouldn’t divorce John. But every person has a breaking point, and Elizabeth’s friends believe she’s reached hers,” an insider told The ENQUIRER.

“Elizabeth made it clear to John that she will take him for everything he’s got. She will divorce him and claim their $53 million fortune.

“Elizabeth knows every dirty little secret in her husband’s political past. She’s been his confidant for years, and she’s always kept quiet. But now she’s prepared to reveal all his secrets in open court.”

I will be looking forward to those secrets coming out.

Last night David Letterman (video above) reported an attempt to blackmail him for $2 million dollars over having had sex with female staffers. A major contrast between the two was in how they handled news of their affairs.  John Edwards made matters even worse by denying the affair, leading to reports coming out over months showing that he not only was unfaithful to his wife but was dishonest to the country. In contrast, Letterman could have tried to deny any wrong doing but admitted to having had sex with female staffers:

“My response to that is, yes I have. Would it be embarrassing if it were made public?  Perhaps it would,” Letterman said.  “Especially for the women. But that’s a decision for them to make if they want to come public and talk about the relationships.

Letterman called the series of events “a very bizarre experience.”

“I feel like I need to protect these people — I need to certainly protect my family,” he said.

Conservatives who already hate Letterman are bound to make a lot of noise over this, but most likely this will quickly blow over now that everything is out in the open.  The manner in which he revealed this turned out to make for a great hour of television. It also helps Letterman that, instead of cheating on a wife who was batting cancer, Letterman’s relationship occurred before he got married. We do not know the nature of the relationship with the woman he later married at the time and whether they were exclusive. It was foolish under any circumstance to have such sexual relationships with women working for him. This also raises the question of whether their was any sexual harassment of employees involved, but is also quite possible that this was consensual with Letterman’s fame likely to lead some women to have such interest in him.

Another crucial difference here is in the role of the two. David Letterman’s role in my life is basically to have an entertaining television show which I watch occasionally. This does not change. It is not like the entertainment industry is composed of a group of saints. On the other hand, we do expect more out of people such as John Edwards who aspire to be President of the United States. Those who supported him for the 2008 Democratic nomination also have good reason to feel betrayed.

NY Daily News Reports Claims That Elizabeth Edwards Bashed Rielle Hunter in Annonymous Blog Comments and Made John Sleep In Their Barn


The New York Daily News has a number of claims about the John Edwards/ Rielle Hunter affair, including a claim that Elizabeth Edwards has been bashing Rielle Hunter in blog comments, writing under a pseudonym. The article also cites other claims from the proposal for Edwards aide Andrew Young’s book, including that Elizabeth has been talking to a divorce lawyer and that John Edwards and Rielle Hunter have made a sex tape. Additional claims include:

  • Edwards had had affairs with other women on the campaign trail.
  • When Edwards was forced to call off a birthday date with Hunter because he found out that Elizabeth’s cancer had returned, an unsympathetic Hunter screamed at him.
  • After learning of the affair, Elizabeth made John sleep in their barn though she would wake him up with accusatory rants.
  • Hunter relied on a California psychic named Bob to tell her where to live and what to do.
  • Edwards had little affection for John Kerry – once comparing him to Richie Rich – but changed his tune when the Democratic presidential nominee tapped him as his running mate.
  • Ted Kennedy once told Young about a would-be assassin who managed to get into his Senate office because one of his bodyguards was having a gay liaison with one of his top aides.

With regards to the item on Kerry, it has been clear since the 2004 election that John Kerry does not think much of John Edwards.

The New York Times Reports on The Edwards Scandal

The New York Times story on John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter yesterday  didn’t really contain anything more than I’ve noted in previous posts. Perhaps just appearing in the Times gives this story more prominence as it remains highly ranked on Memeorandum and has received numerous blog links. The story reports on the grand jury investigation into whether the hush money paid to keep the affair quiet violates campaign finance laws and states that “he is considering declaring that he is the father of Ms. Hunter’s 19-month-old daughter.”

While this is all material which has come out earlier, for those who have not been following the story, here’s the juicy parts:

Wade M. Smith, a Raleigh lawyer who represents Mr. Edwards, declined to comment on the paternity issue directly, but said in a statement that “there may be a statement on that subject at some point, but there is no timetable and we will see how we feel about it as events unfold.”

The notion that Mr. Edwards is the father has been reinforced by the account of Andrew Young, once a close aide to Mr. Edwards, who had signed an affidavit asserting that he was the father of Ms. Hunter’s child.

Mr. Young, who has since renounced that statement, has told publishers in a book proposal that Mr. Edwards knew all along that he was the child’s father. He said Mr. Edwards pleaded with him to accept responsibility falsely, saying that would reduce the story to one of an aide’s infidelity.

In the proposal, which The New York Times examined, Mr. Young says that he assisted the affair by setting up private meetings between Mr. Edwards and Ms. Hunter. He wrote that Mr. Edwards once calmed an anxious Ms. Hunter by promising her that after his wife died, he would marry her in a rooftop ceremony in New York with an appearance by the Dave Matthews Band.

I’ve heard of the promises to marry Hunter before, but the promised appearance of the Dave Matthews Band is a trivial but new point to me.

Not surprisingly many conservative blogs have linked to the story. When this story first broke it often seemed like Liberal Values was the only liberal blog following it. As Edwards’ initial denials were admitted to be untrue, even many liberal  bloggers are now discussing this, sometimes denying the full extent of the scandal. Talk Left complains that the Times story “mixes factual reporting and hearsay from a tabloid-type.” The fact of the matter is that, from the start of this story, the information has first come from the tabloids, and the tabloid accounts have later been shown to be correct.

Many liberal bloggers are primarily disappointed that Edwards was willing to run for the nomination despite the risks that this scandal would break during the 2008 campaign, likely allowing the Republicans to remain in office if Edwards had won the Democratic nomination. MyDD writes:

John Edwards is a persona non grata in the Democratic party. This sad and sordid episode continues to devolve simply because John Edwards cannot admit to the truth. Instead, Mr. Edwards choses willfully to save whatever grace he may yet possess. It is not as much the affair nor the child out of wedlock, though there is that, but the hubris with which Mr. Edwards has acted since the allegations were proven to have a certain validity. Moreover, how does one even contemplate a run at the Presidency given a personal life in disarray?

That is true, but I continue to think that the real moral of the story is that there is a need to recognize that there are dishonest and opportunistic politicians on both sides of the aisle. I had described John Edwards as one of the slimier politicians around well before the Rielle Hunter scandal surfaced. There has been plenty of evidence of this throughout his career. This began when he was an attorney who made his fortune by convincing southern juries that birth defects were caused by medical malpractice and was again seen at multiple points in his political career (which I’ve mentioned in several previous posts).

National Enquirer States Secret DNA Testing Confirms Edwards Paternity

Edwards Hunter Paternity

I wonder if John Edwards would have been smarter to have admitted everything once his affair was Rielle Hunter was confirmed. Instead he has left himself open to a steady stream of news items as new information comes out. If he had admitted to paternity of their daughter this would be a much smaller story today but instead every new information suggesting this becomes news. The latest is that The National Enquirer claims that DNA testing done in secret confirmed that he is the father. I hate to use The National Enquirer as a sole source but they have been the ones who broke the story and their claims have so far been verified.

Update: WRAL News says that their sources say Edwards plans to admit paternity.

Quote of the Day

“I personally have not seen any results for the DNA test, but I can tell you 100 percent John Edwards is the father of my sister’s child.”–Roxanne Druck (the sister of Edwards’ mistress Rielle Hunter, on Entertainment Tonight)

Bonus Quote:

“They definitely communicate. They have a daughter. They definitely communicate.”