Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Great Hair Ticket II


I thought last week that once around about the John Edwards/Bunny Mellon tragicomedy was enough, but so many of you came back with astute and often enough amusing comments that it forces me to take another look, if only to quote what you have to say.  Money, politics, and the ancient human urges ignite a combustible mixture.

One pal, Vern Farnsworth, sums up his days in politics with a reminiscence of having come home puffed up after lunch in the prestigious Tavern Club in Boston with Elliot Richardson and Senators Saltonstall and Henry Cabot Lodge.  His wife "listened patiently to my account of the luncheon and then told me to take out the trash.  So much for arrogance."

Another acquaintance of several decades, a fixture in our intelligence structure who understood right away in 1992 that my book The Old Boys represented a revolutionary interpretation of the history of U.S. intelligence despite the anguish of her colleagues at having so many of their deepest secrets and most profound embarrasments out there in print, felt profoundly the predicament of Bunny Mellon.  The heir herself to the traditions of one of America's oldest and most respected families, my friend confessed that her "heart goes out to a withdrawn, private Bunny Mellon who is at that age and condition where a conniving little xxxx like the dapper Edwards can make her feel that mortgaging her house to fund his next misadventure...serves some greater purpose."

I responded privately that, whatever the fallout publicly, it was my impression that as the heir to the Lambert fortune as well as Paul Mellon's estate Bunny was no doubt well provided for.  But then I read in the NY Times of May 9 that "Mrs. Mellon, an heiress, had given more than $6 million to his [Edwards'] campaigns and causes and an additional $725,000 secretly through Mr. Young to care for Ms. Hunter."

Perhaps we were talking real money. Meanwhile, my friend the intelligence bureaucrat came back with an e-mail that revealed how much more she knew than I did about Bunny Mellon's predicament.  "Yes, Bunny has plenty of assets," she wrote, "but not a lot of money.  A common problem for the elderly rich who live grandly.  She had to sell the NYC place, and some houses in France, for liquidity.  And her financial retinue has begun asserting controls on spending."  The tens of millions that Edwards and Young attempted to extract to underwrite some sort of "foundation" that Young would run probably set off alarm bells all over the accounting houses of Manhattan.

"Families grow concerned that you will be taken advantage of, snookered, start funding some n'er-do-wells," my friend writes.  "Or worry that their inheritance will be frittered away in your final years.  Every contact is fraught with expectations, distrust, psychological/medical snooping, and gossip. become a prisoner of the trappings of wealth rather than one living out final days in splendor with few worries."

What can I add?

Blogs to come will probably become a little more intermittent over the next month or so while I take a quick research trip to Costa Rica and we then embark on our late-May resettlement for the summer in New Hampshire.  Stay tuned in.  There is more to come.

Buck up.  See -- poverty hath its privileges!

Burton Hersh      

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