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Book Review: What A Party! By Terry McAuliffe

February 20, 2007

In 2004 I was a delegate for John Kerry and attended the Democratic National Convention. Having never been particularly active politically, it was strange to suddenly be in a big arena, sitting 20 feet away while Bill Clinton spoke and jumping up and down waving maniacally the latest sign they’d just put in our hands, so as to look pumped up for the TV cameras.  While I thought it was important, it also felt kind of silly.

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman at the time has just released a new book, What A Party!, that validates the opinion I had—politics is important and silly at the same time.

McAuliffe traces his political roots back to his childhood in Syracuse, where his dad was a mainstay in local Democratic circles. And once he became an adult, it wasn’t long before McAuliffe got into the game, but on a national level, riding on Air Force One with President Jimmy Carter while in his early 20s.  How did he rise so fast? McAuliffe knew how to bring in the bucks.  His fundraising prowess put him in demand in Democratic circles. McAuliffe was willing to do what it took to get the dough, from wrestling an alligator to a quick karaoke tune.

Of course after those heady days on Air Force One, it would be a while before Democrats would be in the seat of power, but McAuliffe’s role in raising cash for Bill Clinton gave him a front row seat for an eventful presidency.  It’s clear that McAuliffe has a huge amount of affection for the Clintons, and he makes no apologies for it, so don’t expect much juicy stuff there. Still, Bill Clinton holds so much fascination for so many that it’s interesting to hear McAuliffe’s stories about their time together.

As you might imagine, McAuliffe doesn’t have much bad to say about anyone on the Democratic side, but he’s not shy about being the hero of the anti-Republican brigade, offering a number of stories that portray him as the fearless pit bull when other Democrats were weak. One of his few shots at the Dems comes when he expresses his dismay at the John Kerry campaign in 2004, including their refusal to attack George W. Bush at the convention and other missteps. He also portrays Kerry as being somewhat removed from what his campaign managers were even doing.

What A Party! offers plenty of behind-the-scenes stuff that Democrats will enjoy, but it is marred somewhat by McAuliffe’s high opinion of himself.  This is not a man who has a problem with self-love, and at times it is grating to listen to him tell us of his heroism in the face of this or that calamity. On the other hand, McAuliffe’s joy in doing his job, along with his oft-stated amazement at how far the Syracuse kid had come, makes it easier to not hold it against him. And it does sound like a pretty amazing life (although not exactly conducive to being an active father to his five children).

If you’re a diehard Dem or a Clinton fan, pick it up.  If not, you can expect Terry McAuliffe at your door any day to tell you the error of your ways.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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