John Edwards calling former staffers asking for forgiveness
Updated Monday, August 25th 2008, 3:41 PM
As Democrats kick off their convention Monday, the onetime presidential contender is a man without a party - or a political future - trying to rebuild bridges through dozens of remorseful phone calls.
It's proving a hard sell with onetime true believers.
Many are bitter and disillusioned after swallowing his lies about his affair with a campaign staffer and vouching for his credibility with friends and journalists.
Some ignore his plaintive phone entreaties and don't call back - even when Edwards leaves follow-up messages. A few return his calls - and give him a piece of their angry minds.
When Edwards reached one longtime confidant asking for advice, he was cut off with a terse: "I don't want you to call me again."
The conversation ended abruptly.
"I let you down, and I'm sorry," is a common refrain of these messages, said another top ex-assistant on the receiving end of one of the calls.
"It was kind of pathetic, to tell you the truth," said the ex-aide, who said he didn't return the call and doesn't expect to speak to his former boss again.
For months, the former North Carolina senator and John Kerry's 2004 running mate vigorously denied National Enquirer reports of an affair with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter, who since gave birth to a child.
On Aug. 8, Edwards admitted the 2006 affair with Hunter in an ABC interview - when his wife Elizabeth's cancer was in remission - but insisted he isn't the father of her son.
One source who compared notes with other former colleagues said Edwards makes no attempt to justify or rationalize his behavior in these desperate phone conversations. He simply expresses his regret for deceiving them and asks for their understanding and forgiveness.
Many think he's still not telling the truth.
"As painful as it will be for him, he needs to come clean," one of them said. "There's an overwhelming view that he's still lying."
With Kenneth R. Bazinet