May 24, 2012I learned something about political campaigns at the Johnny Reid Edwards trial last week.
I knew that politicians lie, and I knew that people campaigning for politicians lie. What I didn't know is that all the people working for the campaign are lying to each other, or at least that was the case in the Edwards presidential campaign. Harrison Hickman, the pollster for the campaign who testified on Monday, May 14, said that the Edwards campaign wasn't a lot different from the other presidential campaigns he had worked for, and he admitted would send out polling information he thought was inaccurate to the campaign staffers to keep them pumped up.
Hickman was testifying on the one day I sat in on the trial, and if you are looking for a comprehensive report on the trial you won't find it here. I attended part of the afternoon session one day, but that is all I've had time for in the past three weeks. And now, of course, all that is happening now is that the jury is eating big bags of junk food and everyone else is waiting.
If you want comprehensive coverage, go to The Daily Beast (www.thedailybeast.com) and read Diane Dimond's reporting. She has been there from the beginning and has the best coverage I've read.
I mainly wanted to sit in the courtroom and get a taste of what it was like. And when I walked in the courtroom, Guilford County Board of Education Chairman, News & Record attorney, City of Greensboro attorney, and, most importantly, Edwards' attorney Alan Duncan was questioning Hickman about the campaign. Hickman said that he knew that the campaign was over in November or December 2007, or that there was a high probability that the campaign would not be successful, and this was before the first caucus was held or vote was cast.
Hickman, later in his testimony, explained that if Edwards didn't win Iowa and didn't win South Carolina then it was all over. And it didn't appear he was going to win Iowa, and there was no chance that he was going to win South Carolina. So basically the campaign was over, and he told Edwards this in the fall of 2007.
Under cross-examination, Hickman testified over and over, first that he didn't remember, and then, when given one of his own emails to refresh his memory, he would agree that he had sent emails to the campaign staff noting polls that showed Edwards neck and neck, or tied or ahead. He kept testifying that the polls were not polls that he found reputable but that he was trying to give the campaign workers a boost so they would keep working, so he passed them along.
In other words, he knew the polls were wrong and that the Edwards campaign was essentially over, but he still was sending out copies of polls that he knew were wrong to fool the campaign staff, including the campaign chief of staff.
Hickman said some other stuff that just doesn't ring true, like both he and Fred Baron believed that Andrew Young was the father of the baby that Edwards fathered with Rielle Hunter. Baron and Bunny Mellon were the two extremely wealthy benefactors who together paid about $1 million to keep Hunter and the baby – that supposedly Hickman and Baron (who has since died) thought was the son of Young – hidden from the National Enquirer. Hickman wasn't asked why Baron would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to hide Andrew Young, his wife and three children, Young's mistress and one child from the National Enquirer.
It doesn't make any more sense than much of his testimony.
Hickman also said that if Young told him it was raining that he would go outside to check, but in this one instance where Young was telling a lie that was so ridiculous people all over the country were making fun of it, Hickman said he believed it.
Hickman said that he believed Young when he said that he had fathered the child of his boss's girlfriend and that this woman was now living with Young and his wife and three kids. Now there are some understanding wives in the world, but does anyone know a wife who would take in their husband's pregnant girlfriend? Although according to the story she did happen to be the girlfriend of her husband's boss, an extremely powerful man on the short list to be the most powerful man in the world.
The statement by Young that he was the father of Hunter's baby was so absurd it was the subject of late night talk show television monologues. Young is supposed to have fathered a child with Edwards' girlfriend and Edwards is OK with that; Young's wife is OK with that; and evidently Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, is also OK with her husband having an affair as long as the child belongs to somebody else. It was a bizarre lie and, if indeed Hickman, who says he has worked on 400 campaigns, believed it, then perhaps political candidates might want to take notice because someone that naive really doesn't have any business running a campaign.
Hickman testified that the huge concern of Elizabeth and John Edwards was that the story of his affair would move from the National Enquirer to the mainstream media. It should embarrass every member of the national press corps that it did not. All it would have taken was for an editor to call someone covering the Edwards campaign and ask if the reporter thought that there might have been anything going on between the campaign videographer and the candidate. Reportedly those covering the campaign thought something was going on, but they didn't want to report on it.
The fact that Mitt Romney bullied someone in high school is a front-page story, but a Democratic presidential candidate having an affair and fathering a child with a member of the campaign staff is not news according to the mainstream media. And the industry wonders why daily newspaper circulation keeps dropping?
The federal government spends billions of dollars on bridges to nowhere, highways we don't need and buildings of every kind, but the courtroom in the Richardson Preyer Federal Building where this trial is being held is an embarrassment. There is a big pillar in the middle of the courtroom that blocks the public's view of either the judge, the witness, the attorneys or the jury. There are a couple of places in the room where the people have an unobstructed view of everyone, but they are few and far between.
The lighting is bad, making it difficult to see the people that you can see. Then even if you are sitting somewhere where you can see the witness, there is a big computer monitor between the witness and the lawyers and public. It appears that the computer monitor does not obstruct the view that the jury or the judge have of the witness, but it sure makes it difficult for the public. With all the resources of the federal government they can't find a way to lower the computer screen? It's incredible.
Watching a trial where you can't see the lawyer doing the questioning or the witness, you have to look at other things, and I found it interesting that at times the chair backs of Edwards, his attorneys Allison Van Laningham and Abbe Lowell were all at the same angle, like it was a movie set or done by a choreographer. Duncan's chair was all over the place.
I was also fascinated by the fact that Hickman, Edwards, Duncan and I are all the same age. It looks like what our generation has to pass on to the next may be long, involved, expensive political trials.