The Perfect Enemy | John Edwards’ shadow- POLITICO - POLITICO
May 27, 2022

John Edwards’ shadow- POLITICO – POLITICO

John Edwards’ shadow- POLITICO  POLITICO

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Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With help from Allie Bice. 

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Not much good came from Sen. JOHN EDWARDS’ 2008 presidential campaign.

A bid to become the Democratic nominee on a populist platform ended in ignominious fashion after it was revealed that Edwards had been having an affair with a campaign videographer while his wife was battling breast cancer.

The senator skirted off from the political scene in disgrace. But for many of the staffers who manned that presidential bid, politics remained a calling. And, sure enough, a dozen years after the fact, they finally found their way to the White House.

The current White House is staffed by a number of people who cut their teeth on the infamous Edwards presidential campaign.

Current deputy chief of staff JEN O’MALLEY DILLON and communications director KATE BEDINGFIELD had senior roles working for Edwards. DAVID KIEVE, the former the public engagement director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Bedingfield’s husband, also worked on the 2008 campaign. Deputy Treasury Secretary WALLY ADEYEMO, and Department of Commerce senior adviser to the secretary for communications CAITLIN LEGACKI, who was an intern fresh out of college, both worked for the campaign. JAMES KVAAL, the undersecretary for education, served as a campaign policy director whose job included participating","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffee1001b","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffee1001c","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>participating in lo-fi early YouTube videos about education policy.

The soon-to-be face of JOE BIDEN’s White House, incoming press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, also was an Edwards’ alum. She served as a regional political director.

Edwards himself has barely spoken to the press since acknowledging his affair, choosing instead to return to practicing law in North Carolina and retreat from public view. But when asked about the network of former staffers who have ascended to major roles in the Biden White House and administration, he gave a rare on the record remark.

“They are all smart, talented, hard working and they see the extraordinary potential of America,” he said. “I was lucky to have them, the President is lucky to have them, and America is lucky to have them.”

For those who worked on the Edwards campaign, doing so remains a bit of a political scarlet letter. In her 2019 book, “Moving Forward,” Jean-Pierre described moving to Columbia, South Carolina to work for the campaign as a big mistake.

“Of all my career decisions, the one I most regret is choosing to join the John Edwards campaign in 2007 rather than Barack Obama’s,” she said.

An upstart who overperformed initial expectations in the 2004 presidential campaign, Edwards’ 2008 campaign was overshadowed by those of BARACK OBAMA and HILLARY CLINTON. He initially denied reports he’d had an affair with a campaign videographer and stayed in the race. After dropping out, he angled for a spot in Obama’s cabinet as the general election approached before finally admitting to the affair but denying he fathered their child (he later admitted paternity).

Though the campaign left scars on many of its staffers (some were forced to relive the experience during ugly court proceedings years later), many who spoke with West Wing Playbook said it made sense that Edwards staffers now occupy top roles in the Biden White House. Some Edwards vets noted that close connections forged with O’Malley Dillon during the campaign have only deepened during her time on the Biden campaign and, now, in the White House. But other former aides said the campaign had built a strong policy team that focused on issues front and center for the Biden administration today: Inequality, healthcare, and climate change.

“The ‘Two Americas’ theme is astoundingly prescient,” said MARK KORNBLAU, who served as Edwards’ national spokesperson in 2008. “That credit goes to a lot of people around him. But he did [also] understand.”

“We put out a ton of policy that many of us remain pretty proud of,” another Edwards alum said.

Jean-Pierre, too, seemed to concede that the ideas behind Edwards’ run remain salient to her even if the campaign was a deeply unpleasant experience.

“I remain impressed that John Edwards, despite all his failings, really focused the nation’s attention on poverty… But the whole affair was so squalid,” she wrote in her book.

Asked for comment, Jean-Pierre looped in deputy press secretary CHRIS MEAGHER who didn’t respond.

TEXT US — ARE YOU ALEJANDRA CASTILLO, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development? We want to hear from you. Or if you think we missed something in today’s edition, let us know and we may include it tomorrow.  Email us at","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffee1001d","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffee1001e","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>[email protected].


Our own Allie Bice has today’s trivia question — which president said: “I’m the president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”

(Answer at the bottom.)

The Oval

BIDEN-ISM OF THE DAY: “I am so tired of acronyms. I can’t stand them,” the president said today during a Rose Garden event about the Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP.

As KATE BEDINGFIELD told us about Biden last year, using acronyms “violates his rule of ‘anybody should be able to read this or hear it and understand what I’m talking about.’”

KLAIN “LIKE” OF THE DAY: The White House chief of staff liked Axios’ tweet","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffee80002","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffee80003","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>liked Axios’ tweet: “Lockheed Martin aims to nearly double production of Javelin antitank missiles.”

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Conservatives and Republicans are resurfacing old tweets by Jean-Pierre, including one in which she claims the 2016 presidential election was “stolen” and that Republicans “stole” the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election from STACEY ABRAMS. Expect some questions on it during her debut next week. Fox News already published a story","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffee80004","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffee80005","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>Fox News already published a story about it.

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU TO READ: Anything about the new Affordable Connectivity Program the administration launched today. White House regional communications director RYKIA DORSEY CRAIG tweeted a few screenshots of stories","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeec0000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeec0001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>tweeted a few screenshots of stories about the program, and cited in a tweet that it is set to “provide ~48M families with $30/mo. in savings on their internet bills.”

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: This CNN fact check on Biden’s claim that he reduced the federal deficit","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeec0002","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeec0003","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>This CNN fact check on Biden’s claim that he reduced the federal deficit. CNN’s DANIEL DALE writes that while the “deficit has been smaller under the Biden administration than it was at the end of Trump’s tenure. [It] has been bigger under the Biden administration than the nonpartisan federal Congressional Budget Office had projected it would be if the Biden-era federal government stuck with the laws that were in effect when Trump left office in early 2021.”

ANOTHER COVID CASE: White House Domestic Policy Council Director SUSAN RICE tested positive for Covid-19 Monday morning, the latest positive diagnosis in the White House. Rice wrote in a tweet announcing the news","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeec0004","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeec0005","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>wrote in a tweet announcing the news that she’s feeling fine and that she last saw the president in-person Wednesday, but it was not considered close contact according to the CDC.

CONGRATS(?), TOM: Agriculture Secretary TOM VILSACK was not arrested by the military, despite an April 29 blog post by Real Raw News","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeec0006","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeec0007","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>despite an April 29 blog post by Real Raw News claiming he was. PolitiFact’s SAMANTHA PUTTERMAN has more.","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeec0008","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeec0009","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>PolitiFact’s SAMANTHA PUTTERMAN has more. We also have photographic evidence of him, not arrested, courtesy of his office:

FRIEDMAN MIND MELD: Press secretary JEN PSAKI essentially confirmed the thrust of this THOMAS FRIEDMAN column","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeee0000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeee0001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>the thrust of this THOMAS FRIEDMAN column over the weekend in response to leaks about the U.S.’s reported role in providing intelligence allowing Ukrainians","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeee0002","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeee0003","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>about the U.S.’s reported role in providing intelligence allowing Ukrainians to target and kill Russian generals.

“The president was displeased with the leaks. His view was that it was an overstatement of our role–an inaccurate statement–and also an understatement of the Ukrainians’ role,” she said. Friedman is one of Biden’s favorite columnists, fwiw. h/t POLITICO’s CHRIS CADELAGO (follow him here!","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeee0004","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffeee0005","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>follow him here!)


NEW DEPUTY IN TOWN: Vice President KAMALA HARRIS has a new deputy chief of staff","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffef20001","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffef20002","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>has a new deputy chief of staff — hiring ERIN WILSON for the role, Axios’ ALEXI McCAMMOND reports. She’s set to begin May 31st.

Wilson is part of the Biden 2020 primary campaign crew. Some of those people were layered during the general election but many have landed in the West Wing. That will be useful for the VP as its relations with the West Wing were fraught over the first year.

EXITS: MACHMUD MAKHMUDOV, a policy adviser on the White House’s Covid-19 response team, announced that last Friday was his last day on the job:

Agenda Setting

WHITE FLAG: Biden conceded this afternoon that the Covid aid money he has been calling for would not be included in legislation to send more money to help Ukraine. “Previously, I had recommended that Congress take overdue action on much needed funding for COVID treatments, vaccines and tests, as part of the Ukraine Supplemental bill,” he said in a statement.

“However, I have been informed by Congressional leaders in both parties that such an addition would slow down action on the urgently needed Ukrainian aid – a view expressed strongly by several Congressional Republicans.”

As a reminder: The federal government predicted last week that there could be 100 million more Covid cases by this fall.

THE WORLD IS (NOT) FLAT?: The president’s goal to rebuild U.S. manufacturing has gotten more momentum, after China’s refusal to condemn Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our GAVIN BADE writes in a great in-depth feature on Biden’s efforts to find a path between global free trade and Trump-like protectionism.

The president’s trade policy seemed to be on life support, stifled in part by Congress blocking parts of the Build Back Better proposal and internal fighting within the White House over tariffs and sanctions. But the Russian invasion has kickstarted the president’s goals in shifting away from globalization. “That agenda is a stark departure from American trade policy of the last 40 years,” he writes.

What We’re Reading

Amazon Anti-Union Confabs Deemed Illegal By Labor Officials","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffefb0000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffefb0001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>Amazon Anti-Union Confabs Deemed Illegal By Labor Officials (Bloomberg’s Josh Eidelson)

Jill Biden’s Secret Ukraine Trip","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffefb0002","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffefb0003","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>Jill Biden’s Secret Ukraine Trip (NYT’s Katie Rogers)

Exclusive: Putin ‘has recognized he has no victory to celebrate,’ US ambassador to UN says ","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffefb0004","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffefb0005","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>Exclusive: Putin ‘has recognized he has no victory to celebrate,’ US ambassador to UN says (CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler)

Afghan Evacuees Encounter a Rocky Start in U.S.","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffefb0006","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5ffefb0007","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>Afghan Evacuees Encounter a Rocky Start in U.S. (WSJ’s Jessica Donati)

Where’s Joe

Biden returned to the White House this morning, after spending his weekend in Delaware. Director of Oval Office Operations ANNIE TOMASINI and Senior Director for Defense CARA ABERCROMBIE traveled with him.

He received the President’s Daily Brief, and later delivered remarks in the Rose Garden about the bipartisan infrastructure law’s efforts to expand high-speed internet access and lower costs.

He also signed a bill into law that would create a lend-lease program for Ukraine.

This evening, Biden participated in a DNC fundraiser in Potomac, Md.

Where’s Kamala

She joined the president for the daily brief, remarks in the Rose Garden and the bill signing.

She also swore in NICK PERRY to serve as the ambassador to Jamaica in the afternoon.

The Oppo Book

Energy Secretary JENNIFER GRANHOLM is a big fan of the Chevy Volt, and the dealership that sold it to her more than 10 years ago.

In a 2011 video testimonial for Del Grande Dealer Group","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5fff030000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5fff030001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>a 2011 video testimonial for Del Grande Dealer Group, a car dealership based in California, she said that she was happy with her car buying experience, and expressed her excitement for the new car.

She even plugged her own Facebook page, as she said she would “make sure that this Volt is prominently featured.”


GEORGE H.W. BUSH had a vendetta against the vegetable","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5fff050000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000180-ab5c-d902-adfc-bf5fff050001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>had a vendetta against the vegetable, according to the Washington Post. He once told the press that he hadn’t “liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”

A CALL OUT — Do you have a more difficult trivia question? Send us your best question on the presidents with a citation and we may feature it.

Edited by Eun Kyung Kim and Sam Stein