ACT I

(JOHN EDWARDS is in a Manhattan bar, talking to himself. Sad.)

JOHN EDWARDS

I’m running for president,
The highest office in the land.
Look, I’m right there in the mirror,
Smoothing my hair down with my hand.

I am handsome. Yes, it’s true.
And I am wealthy: that’s true, too.
But superficial things like that,
Well, they’re just not where I’m at.

You see, I care about the poor.
I often fret about their plight.
I adore the way I look
In this smoky barroom light.

(RIELLE HUNTER spots JOHN EDWARDS at the bar and approaches him.)

RIELLE HUNTER

Hi, I’m Lisa.
I mean Rielle.
Will you take me
To a hotel?

JOHN EDWARDS

Well, I never.
I’m shocked and dismayed.
My wife and children
Would feel betrayed.
Plus, there’s a special circumstance:
My wife has cancer. It’s advanced.

(JOHN EDWARDS’s phone rings.)

JOHN EDWARDS

What? That’s great.
The hand of fate
Has relaxed its stranglehold.
God’s mercy should be extolled.

(JOHN EDWARDS hangs up his phone.)

JOHN EDWARDS

Oh, wait, now she’s in remission.
I guess that means I have permission.

( They begin their affair. As a cover story, JOHN EDWARDS hires RIELLE HUNTER to make campaign videos.)

RIELLE HUNTER

I see you looking like Charlton Heston
Or maybe Han Solo. Here, put this vest on.
Then let’s try a Top Gun thing.
You can stand by a plane and lean on the wing.

JOHN EDWARDS

These movies fill me with anxiety.
Will they help the poor in our society?
Will it bring together the two Americas
Or will it all simply embarrass us?

(JOHN EDWARDS’s skepticism regarding the campaign films strains his relationship with RIELLE HUNTER.)

RIELLE HUNTER

You don’t think I’m good at this!

JOHN EDWARDS

Come here and give Lovelips a kiss.

(National Enquirer editor DAVID PEREL is sitting in his office, bemoaning the lack of gossip.)

DAVID PEREL

We’re in the doldrums, sad to say.
Perhaps scandal has had its day.
Remember, though, the glow and glory
Of each and every crazy story?
O.J. kills! Mel Gibson boozes!
Suri might not be Tom Cruise’s!
How I long for a good old-fashioned
Tabloid moment. It’s my passion.

(JIMMY, the office boy, runs in.)

JIMMY

Boss, boss …
Senator …
Boss, boss …
Hotel … whore …

DAVID PEREL

Slow down, Jimmy.
You can talk to me.
We don’t need such crazy speed.
This isn’t TMZ.

(JIMMY composes himself and tells DAVID PEREL about the Edwards-Hunter affair. In October 2007, the National Enquirer runs a story about the affair. JOHN EDWARDS denies it.)

JOHN EDWARDS

I can’t abide
These filthy lies.
They interfere
With my career.
I am no philanderer,
But you, sir, are a slanderer.

(ELIZABETH EDWARDS refuses to deal directly with the concerns.)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS

I’ve been largely private since this campaign began.
That’s how I choose to stand by my man.
Plus, I have more pressing concerns,
Like making sure that no cancer returns.
I’m feeling tired and not all that well.
I think that I’ll go lie down for a spell.

(DAVID PEREL publishes a second story, naming RIELLE HUNTER as JOHN EDWARDS’s mistress and reporting that she is six months pregnant, possibly with EDWARDS’s child. A few months later, after limited success in the primary season, JOHN EDWARDS drops out of the presidential race.)

JOHN EDWARDS

I am ending my campaign,
But not my fight for the working poor.
They are what lets this land remain
Great and yet they are ignored.

In this time of great decision,
When a president is being selected,
I’ll make sure the poor are not neglected.
I’ll keep them in the public vision.

(JOHN EDWARDS fades from public view somewhat as Barack Obama acquires momentum and eventually defeats Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Fred Baron, JOHN EDWARDS’s former campaign-finance chairman, pays RIELLE HUNTER’s moving expenses and rent.)

RIELLE HUNTER

Is this hush money?

JOHN EDWARDS

Of course not, honey.
I just know that moving can be a beast.
It costs as much as a haircut, at least.

(DAVID PEREL learns that JOHN EDWARDS is visiting RIELLE HUNTER at the Beverly Hills Hilton and sets up an ambush in the hotel. When JOHN EDWARDS sees them, he flees to the bathroom.)

REPORTER

Mr. Edwards, come out.
We live in a democracy.
Information is the tonic
That corrects hypocrisy.

JOHN EDWARDS

Oh, of course, yes. I agree—uh,
It’s just that I have diarrhea.

(JOHN EDWARDS makes fake diarrhea noises to scare off the reporters.)

REPORTER

I don’t get paid enough
To deal with this stuff.

(JOHN EDWARDS confesses the affair to ABC News, but insists that he does not love RIELLE HUNTER and that he is not the father of her baby.)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS

Don’t give credit to this rumor.
Gossip spreads just like a tumor.

(TUMOR awakens.)

TUMOR

Hello? Did someone call me?
I think I dozed off at my post.
Is there an organ that needs ruining
Or some blood to turn against the host?

ELIZABETH EDWARDS

This is totally bizarre.
Are you who I think you are?

TUMOR

Hold on a second
I’ll be right back.
I have to make
A sneak attack.

(TUMOR finds JOHN EDWARDS in his office.)

TUMOR

John, do you promise
That you’ll stay with your wife
Until I convey her
Away from this life?

JOHN EDWARDS

I was blinded by fame,
By applause and acclaim.
Over time, I became
Immune to shame.

TUMOR

Yes, yes,
I know
Your rationalization.
I’ve heard it.
It’s disinformation.
I’m asking something different now:
Whether you can truly vow
To be loyal in the days ahead,
Before the Fates snip your wife’s thread.

(TUMOR picks up the telephone and holds it out to JOHN EDWARDS.)

TUMOR

Call her.
Tell her.
Quell her
Fears.
She’s stood
By you
All these
Years.

JOHN EDWARDS

I never meant to humiliate her.
I was a freshman legislator.

TUMOR

I can’t believe you
Won’t give a straight answer.
Do you know who I am?
Come on, man: I’m cancer!

(TUMOR returns to ELIZABETH EDWARDS.)

TUMOR

I’m back, and I won’t leave you;
I’ll be with you till your last day.
I have no choice but to be faithful.
At least it’s more than he can say.

(JOHN EDWARDS is at home, thinking about TUMOR’s question. He picks up the telephone and dials.)

JOHN EDWARDS

Honey, please, just hear me out.
My love for you remains devout.
Soon we’ll see some better weather
And then we can be together.

RIELLE HUNTER

Really? You mean it?
John, I’m so pleased.
We have a special synergy,
And your wife has bad energy.

JOHN EDWARDS

What? Who’s this?
Something’s amiss.

( Unbeknownst to JOHN EDWARDS, TUMOR has tampered with the telephone so that both ELIZABETH EDWARDS and RIELLE HUNTER are on the line.)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS

I’m calling a divorce attorney.

RIELLE HUNTER

And I’m calling Jay McInerney.

- - - -

ACT II

(RIELLE HUNTER gives birth to a daughter.)

RIELLE HUNTER

My daughter’s name is Frances Quinn.
I think she has her father’s chin
She also shares her father’s bent
For producing excrement.

FRANCES QUINN

Goo, goo, ga, ga
Where is dada?
Andrew Young, are you my dad?
If you are, I’ll be so glad.

( Andrew Young, a former aide to JOHN EDWARDS, claims that he is the father of RIELLE HUNTER’s child. Finally, just before the publication of a book in which Young repudiates his earlier claim of paternity, JOHN EDWARDS confesses.)

JOHN EDWARDS

I now affirm
It was my sperm
And Rielle’s egg
I ask—I beg—
For your forgiveness
I never wanted to relive this

( Reporters challenge JOHN EDWARDS over his earlier, aggressive denial.)

REPORTER 1

It took you an eternity
To admit paternity
Now you think that you deserve our trust?

REPORTER 2

Your reflexive self-protection
Didn’t help in the election
This admission only fills us with disgust.

(JOHN EDWARDS defends himself.)

JOHN EDWARDS

Did I lie? Did I dodge?
Did I fabricate and fib?
Was I selfish and wrong?
Was I unspeakably glib?
Did I cheat? Did I weasel?
Did I get Rielle with child?
Was I in it for myself?
Should I be pitied or reviled?
These are questions I leave to history
The answers will remain a mystery
No one’s sorrow can be greater
Than mine, a former litigator
I cannot blame my repeated deceits
On Rielle’s and my commingled gametes

( The day after his confession, JOHN EDWARDS goes to Haiti to assist with earthquake relief. He is approached by a young aid worker, SUSAN.)

SUSAN

I got to the island yesterday
To say that it’s awful is a cliché
I’m trying to keep my wits about me
Helping and feeding and praying devoutly

(JOHN EDWARDS looks past SUSAN at his reflection in a half-shattered shop window.)

JOHN EDWARDS

The island: shattered. The scale: Richter.
The thing in my pants: A boa constrictor.

(SUSAN walks off. JOHN EDWARDS stares at his reflection a little while longer.)