Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Review: A Nation of Wusses, by Ed Rendell

The full title of Gov. Rendell’s book is A Nation ofWusses:  How America’s Leaders Lost theGuts to Make Us Great (Wiley, 20120.

This is not a tell all.  The governor clearly has another book (or two or more) in him.  This is not an autobiography but a series of vignettes and philosophical essays.  He touches very briefly on his childhood, and losing his father as a teen but otherwise skips to his first run for Philadelphia District Attorney.  He mentions his son and estranged wife in passing but doesn’t talk about them in depth.  

Rendell doesn’t dish on his colleagues.  Bob Brady is mentioned once, teaching Bill Clinton how to lean forward when eating a cheesesteak so he won’t drip on his suit and stain it.  There are no mention of Chaka Fattah or any other Philadelphia area congressional representatives.   

Emmet Fitzpatrick, who followed Arlen Specter in the Philly DA’s office, is mentioned, Mike Fitzpatrick, 8th district conference isn’t.  George Schwartz, one time Philadelphia City Councilman is mentioned, Allyson Schwartz, current 13th district congressional representative, is not.  No mention of Vince Fumo or John Perzel.  Michael Nutter and John Street each get a few mentions.

He does tell a few stories.  My favorite chapter is the one on rescuing orphans from Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.  Rendell gives some behind the scenes details, including he and his wife acting as flight attendants, going up and down the makeshift aisles in the plane, delivering the juice boxes and toys they brought with them.

Al Gore didn’t take kindly to Rendell’s suggestion they involve Bill Clinton in Gore’s presidential campaign more.   Gore chewed him out personally and then Gore’s staff uninvited Rendell and his wife from their Christmas party.  Since the Rendell’s hadn’t been invited in the first place it was not a hardship to be uninvited. 

Rendell takes some shots at the press, but also mentions some occasions where he manipulated the media.  He also references Buzz Bissingers book, A Prayer for the City, about Rendell’s early years as Mayor of Philadelphia. 

The governor does tout some of his governmental successes, and rightfully so.  For example he talks about his state budgets and budgetary priorities that helped public education.  As Mayor of Philadelphia he re-negotiated city worker’s contracts and re-negotiated office space leases.  Rendell writes as he speaks, bluntly, and doesn’t mince words. 

In some chapters he lists problems or solutions, mostly in government.   Again, he gives these opinions in a straight-forward fashion.  He says people respect elected officials who will explain and problem and proposed solutions in an honest fashion. 

This is a quick read but a good read.  I recommend it.  For a sampling, check out the excerpts at Philadelphia Magazine.

No comments: