WASHINGTON -- Rielle Hunter's new book "What Really Happened" reveals few new details about what actually took place during her multi-year affair with John Edwards. Much of its material has already been covered in other forums and books, and the layers added to the story don't make it dramatically less sad or bizarre.
But that doesn't make the book entirely pointless. Hunter's account of the affair does underscore how politicians -- even at the highest levels of government -- are often dealing with Category Five personal problems just inches away from the spotlight. And perhaps more importantly, it reveals how hugely consequential campaign decisions (like whether or not to endorse Barack Obama for president) can sometimes hinge on the most surreal of factors (like the mental whims of the mistress).
Below are five of the book's most interesting or revealing moments.
In Los Angeles to do The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, John Edwards meets his and Hunter's daughter Quinn for the first time. The phone rings.
[I]t wasn't Elizabeth [Edwards]; it was our future president Barack Obama. What I gleaned from the conversation was that the future president was "phone banking" him. This was one of many calls that Johnny received under the umbrella of Obama looking for Johnny's endorsement. After all the small talk (basketball mostly), Johnny said something like, "Today is no different from the last time we talked. I haven't decided." He hung up and apologized for picking up. He didn't know it was going to be Obama.
Choosing whether to endorse an ascending Hillary Clinton or a stumbling (but likely to prevail) Obama, Edwards offers Hunter the equivalent of veto power.
And then came the endorsement that sealed their hatred of me forever. Johnny had called me and said Hillary was kicking Obama's butt in West Virginia. Johnny and I had an interesting discussion about why that was.
I suggested, "Maybe they just like her better, maybe it doesn't have anything to do with race. Or maybe it does. I don't know."
"I am thinking about endorsing Obama. What do you think?"
This was May 13th. Obama had been calling Johnny since he dropped out on January 30th. I replied, "I don't care."
He said, "You could talk me out of it if you wanted to."
I did an internal scan to see if I had any feelings at all about his endorsing Obama. Nothing came up. No thoughts. No feelings. I replied, "I have no opinion or feeling about this at all. It just doesn't matter. Do whatever you want."
Edwards takes in the news that Hunter will be keeping the baby after having just rubbed elbows with former President Jimmy Carter.
There was a full moon that night, August 28th. Johnny and I sat out on his balcony looking at the moon over the ocean for a long time. He had just been with President Carter, his wife, Rosalynn, and Elizabeth.
Having just spent time with former Sen. Ted Kennedy, Edwards learns that the baby is a girl.
"I had taken the train down. I did not know it then, but it was to be the last night we would spend together in its entirety for a long time.
He was in a great mood. If I remember correctly, he had just come from Teddy and Vicky Kennedy's house. He was in a great mood anytime he was with them. Johnny would light up whenever he talked about Teddy.
"Guess what the baby is."
"Nope, a girl."
"That is so cool! He kissed me as he rubbed my belly. He was clearly very excited."
While with a group of advisers in Iowa, Edwards and Hunter see Newt Gingrich at a restaurant. A lengthy discussion on infidelity ensues, with no one aware of the couple's affair.
Later that night, we were all eating at Centro in Des Moines and Newt Gingrich was in the restaurant, so the subject of infidelity came up. Mudcat Saunders, who was with us, went off on it. He had zero tolerance for infidelity, whereas Kim [Rubey, Edwards' PAC's Communications Director] defended it. Of course Johnny and I didn't say a word...
Below some more revelations from Hunter's book: