Recently, I have been added to a book distribution list from HarperCollins, for which I am grateful. I’ve received two books thus far from the program and I wish I could be wildly complimentary about them both — but unfortunately, neither one appears worthwhile.
The first, Joe Scarborough’s Rome Wasn’t Burnt In A Day, is part memoir and part a Quixotic challenge to an entrenched bureaucracy in which Republicans and Democrats alike demonstrate the old maxim that power corrupts. Scarborough communicates a bitter disappointment that the Republican revolution has morphed into the same kind of pork-barrel troughsucking against which his freshman Congressional class won election in 1994.
Unfortunately, Scarborough’s book gets sunk by the condescension and hostility that literally seeps from almost every paragraph. His important points wind up playing second fiddle to an immature impulse to indulge in childish namecalling and score-settling. Not only that, but Scarborough simply gets basic facts inexcusably wrong. On the second page of his book, Scarborough tells us that “[i]nterest rates are once again shooting upward because of reckless Washington spending”, a contention that is patently ridiculous. Washington may be spending recklessly, but interest rates are hardly “shooting upwards” — they’ve been raised twice (and incrementally) over the past year from record low rates since World War II.
Take that demagoguery and toss in a few insults like “Fat White Pink Boys”, and you get an almost unreadable mess — and it’s really too bad, because Scarborough has a great perspective and several good points to make about the evolution of the revolution. Had he stuck closer to the facts and laid off the derision — and self-important assertions — more people would pay attention.
The second book has no such value, and the wonder is how it got published at all. If You Had Five Minutes With The President is such a facile waste of time that it almost serves as a satire on our celebrity-obsessed culture. Edited by Ron Reagan, it consists of the answers given by over 50 famous people to the question in its title. Luminaries such as Fran Drescher, Juliette Lewis, Bianca Jagger, and Janeane Garofalo wrote essays about their strategies for a short Presidential visit, as if anyone could possibly care what they think. Harry Hamlin gets the final word — Harry Hamlin?
So what do these pop-culture icons and Trivial-Pursuit answers have to say? Here’s Kathy Najimy:
Well, depending on who the president is, I would either slap him or French-kiss him. Then I would usher him into a helicopter standing conveniently by. I would pull my hair back in a clip so it wouldn’t get all mussed, like Sandra Bullock in Speed.
Minnie Driver starts off her anti-globalization tirade by addressing the President as El Jefe. Stephen Collins wants to talk about how to use Transcendental Meditation to fight terrorism. Mary Stuart Masterson demonstrates the brilliance that has marked her career as an actress:
I would suggest that all meetings with international leaders be conducted after they had given massages to one another. The actual meetings would be conducted in the nude. … Reality shows should be banned from television in favor of people actually living in their own reality. … Politics should stop being so political.
You can purchase this book of concentrated wisdom for just $13.97 at Amazon. Maybe it will provide the perfect antidote to the power of the limousine liberals among our cultural elite, but I doubt that was Ron Reagan’s or HarperCollins’ intent.