The title is the book's hook and selling point - based on Rendell's visceral response to the NFL's decision to postpone an Eagles-Vikings game due to snow - but it also proves a misnomer. Last year, Rendell said that he wanted to confine the wussification business to the first chapter and call the book My Life in Politics: You Can't Make This S--- Up, noting, "I want to write stories."
Rendell writes stories.
Specifically, the most ribald being about Swifty, the libidinous Democratic National Committee donkey mascot, in a chapter devoted to "Animals I have known." Also, as DNC chairman, after he said on television that Al Gore should concede the 2000 presidential election, he was disinvited that very night, around 1 a.m., by one of Tipper's aides to the couple's Christmas party.
The problem with books by politicians is they're written by politicians. Many elected officials rarely say what they mean but rather what they believe other people want to hear. That's how pols get what they want.
Rendell made his reputation by speaking from his gut, which proved a gift to reporters - which we miss to this day! - when he wasn't berating us (not so missed). His temper is volcanic and his judgment often questionable.
With A Nation of Wusses, this self-professed "crafty politician" had time to think and edit himself.
This is so not Ed. The result is a feast of backslapping bromides best suited for the award banquets Rendell claims to loathe.
Everyone is his "good friend." Bob Brady is "the terrific Philadelphia congressman and party chairman." Jim Florio "may be the best and most honorable elected official I have ever met." Al Gore is "the most knowledgeable man I ever met."
You get the point.
Philadelphia Magazine, the exuberant monthly of liposuction and cosmetic dentistry, slobbers over Ed Rendell much like a St. Bernard. On the June cover, the magazine asks if he'll run for president - the former mayor, 68, has zero interest - while labeling the book "bold."
A Nation of Wusses is many things, but bold is not one of them.
Rendell does criticize President Obama for poorly selling his successes and agenda, but then Rendell has always been a Clinton guy. "I have never fallen out of love," first with Bill and now Hillary, whom he wants to run for president in four years, even offering to manage her campaign. He prefers warm, old-style pols like himself to cool, distant ones like the president.
Rendell catalogs "why most American politicians are wusses," and is right on many points, including "refuse to admit mistakes," "don't have the courage to say no to their base," and "refuse to answer questions from the media." He lashes out at the ridiculous number of Republicans who said yes to the unelected Grover Norquist and no to any new taxes on anything, especially rich people and corporations. This is not exactly a radical stance from a former Democratic governor whose greatest legacy may be increased funding for education, especially in early childhood, and social services serving the poor and disenfranchised.
All Rendell's criticisms - and so many others - bring to mind one politician in particular, Tom Corbett, the man who followed him in Harrisburg, whom voters chose as an antidote to his brash, pro-government, Philadelphia-disposed style. Corbett is on track to be the worst Pennsylvania governor in modern history, and an unmitigated disaster for this city.
And what does Rendell, who writes emphatically about "my love affair with Philadelphia," have to say about Corbett? Not a word.
As long the most powerful Democrat in the commonwealth, Rendell could be harnessing all his clout with his listless state party to render Corbett a one-term executive. Instead, we get top 10 lists and a frisky barnyard animal.
You expect big things from Rendell but remember that during three decades in politics he mastered something else: a gift for compromise. And so the book turns out to be precisely what Rendell spends so much time railing against. It's wussy.
Contact Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or email@example.com.