Politics & Policy

Throw the Books at Her

A former congresswoman's sob stories.

According to Pat Schroeder, liberals read more books than conservatives. Not coincidentally, this disparity is largely accounted for by the sales of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being Smug. At least that’s the gist of what the former congresswoman from Colorado recently said in her capacity as president of the American Association of Publishers.

“The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: ‘No, don’t raise my taxes, no new taxes,’” she told the Associated Press. “It’s pretty hard to write a book saying, ‘No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes’ on every page.” That’s a pretty astute summation of most conservative books, no? Who knew that Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining was Republican?

Of course, the sloganeering she disdains is naturally at odds with liberal readers. Unlike conservatives, liberal libraries are voluminous because, as Schroeder notes, liberals tend to be policy wonks who “can’t say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion.” 

One can only presume that conservatives are comparably bereft of the understanding inspired by the belles-lettres of the liberal publishing industry, which has brought us to the unparalleled zeniths of political insight we currently experience today. It would hardly be surprising if Moses himself had descended from Mt. Sinai — fresh from the appearance of a Burning Bush (!) — with copies of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, Dude Where’s My Country?, The Bush Haters Handbook, Why Mommy is a Democrat, Naked Republicans: A Full-frontal Exposure of Right-wing Hypocrisy and Greed, Spanking the Donkey, Dumbass, et al. Now I don’t know about you, but Spanking the Donkey really peels my onion! It’s such a fine line between speaking truth to power and talking dirty.

Of course, Schroeder’s observations might also be driven by personal animus. She was never one for conservative slogans. One story she recounts in her own book is how, at an event with John Wayne, the actor tried to give her a cigarette lighter engraved with the phrase “F**k Communism” — a gift he apparently bestowed upon politicians. She declined. Presumably she couldn’t get behind a slogan condemning a systemized evil responsible for the deaths of untold millions. Yet somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that if he had ever gotten around to authoring “F**k Communism by John Wayne” the titular slogan might very well have proven Schroeder’s point about the Right’s Pavlovian response to literature and still ended up as the greatest conservative book ever written. Nobody swore with righteous indignation quite like The Duke.

Perhaps further shining a spotlight on Schroeder’s aforementioned intellectual treatise 24 Years of House Work — and the Place Is Still a Mess: My Life in Politics [sic], will help explain her ideas about political literature. Two hundred and forty-four pages of kvetching about how difficult it is to be a woman and a member of Congress. But a word to the wise: If your stated goal is trying to convince readers how women aren’t taken seriously at the highest levels of power then maybe you shouldn’t equate vacuuming and dusting with leading the free world in the title. (And if she were truly interested in proving the worth of women as leaders, Schroeder probably shouldn’t have cried at the press conference when she announced she was dropping out of the presidential race in 1987. I hear Hillary Clinton cranks Back in Black and watches an endless loop of that weepy press conference to get psyched for the Democratic debates.)

Beyond the John Wayne story, the book’s remaining highlight is her recounting of how she told the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, “For years, I’ve felt like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike,” a gaffe that’s bad on so many gender-bending levels it makes Dan Quayle seem like Pericles. As far as political books go, it would seem that being humor-impaired and unable to understand irony are greater sins than sloganeering. But what do I know? I’m not president and CEO of the American Association of Publishers.

In the meantime, anybody know where I can get some engraving done? Communism may be a far greater evil than Pat Schroeder, but the sentiment still applies.

 – Mark Hemingway is a writer in Washington, D.C.

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