Cracking the Myth of Saint Elizabeth

The Edwards presidential campaign—not to mention his marriage—was bizarrely dysfunctional, according to the must-read new book Game Change, excerpted in New York magazine. And yet the Edwardses appear to have been in denial the entire time. The enduring public reputation of Elizabeth Edwards was, to aides, vastly and disturbingly different from her private persona. She was either “intensely affectionate or brutally dismissive” of her husband, mocking him for his redneck roots and telling staffers that she was the one who read books. When there was a glitch in arranging the couple’s health insurance, she threatened to cut off the staff’s health care until theirs was fixed. Staffers pleaded with Edwards to ditch Rielle Hunter, who, in addition to being embarrassingly New Agey and overfamiliar with the candidate, fed Edwards’ dangerously growing “ego monster.” As the campaign imploded, the Edwardses remained in denial about the paternity of Hunter’s kid and John’s political prospects. Elizabeth told a staffer that she had to believe that John was not the father—“Because if I don’t, it means I’m married to a monster.”