On occasion, I’ll get asked whether I’ll ever run for public office, and my response is always the same: if I had any interest at all in running for office, I wouldn’t have spent the last decade writing down every thought and opinion I have on politics and culture for everyone to read. (Real answer: I have no desire to run for office anyway.) Political campaigns these days do a good enough job of oppo research without helping your opponents to load the cannons aimed squarely at yourself. Maybe someone should have explained that to Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe before he decided to write a warts-and-all memoir a few years back, too. The RNC has a new webspot up that does (almost) nothing but quote from the passages that show McAuliffe as so self-absorbed that he couldn’t even stay with his wife while she was in labor with their child:
The Daily Caller recently found five of these episodes in McAuliffe’s 2007 memoir:
In his 2007 memoir, “What a Party!: My Life Among Democrats, Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, And Other Wild Animals,” the legendary Democratic moneyman writes of doing everything from wrestling an alligator to ambushing an unsuspecting donor to collect checks for the party.
The book is the focus of renewed attention now that McAuliffe is running for office again, particularly the his stories about leaving wife’s side to attend parties immediately before and after she gave birth to their daughter Sarah. In the memoir, McAuliffe admits he once left his wife Dorothy in the delivery room to attend a Washington Post party. He also tells a story about leaving his wife in the car on the way home from the hospital to attend a fundraiser.
The Atlantic’s David Graham notes another episode from the book, again involving McAuliffe’s preoccupation with politics during family time, and calls the Virginia race the most entertaining of 2013, even more so than tomorrow’s special election in South Carolina:
But maybe there’s a reason Dorothy didn’t want him present for Sarah’s birth. Take this anecdote, which he also tells in the book, about what happened when he stuck around for his son Jack’s birth in 1993, as President Clinton was trying to pass health-care reform:
Dorothy was in labor at Georgetown Hospital and I was there lending moral support. Just to be friendly, I started talking to the anesthesiologist and her OB, Dr. Mark Reiter, and before you knew it we were really getting into it over health care. Dorothy was suffering through the pain of labor and the doctors and I were having a heated argument.
“Do you want socialized medicine?” the anesthesiologist asked me, his voice rising.
“Of course not,” I said. “However, there are thirty-seven million uninsured people in this country with no access to health care. Is that fair?”
I was almost shouting by then and began to worry that in his first moments on earth, poor little Jack was going to have his mind seared for life with this health-care debate.
“And last year we spent $45 billion on administrative costs,” I said. “That’s not providing health care. That’s pushing paper. You call that efficient?”
We were making so much noise that we got kicked out of the delivery room by a nurse who made Nurse Ratched look like Mother Teresa.
“Okay, guys, you’re out of here,” she insisted and we walked out into the doctor’s lounge to slug it out there. Jack McAuliffe is still proud to this day that as he came into the world his father was down the hall fighting for the little guy.(You can see the passage here on Google Books)
So what does this have to do with the race for governor? Actually, not a hell of a lot. It paints McAuliffe as a Type-A workaholic that puts his family somewhere below his political aspirations, at least when presented outside the context of the memoir as a whole. That could be seen as a positive, perhaps, by voters who think that elected officials should their considerations above that of family while in office, although it’s going to leave a pretty negative personal impression of McAuliffe in general.
Of course, that’s the real point of these kind of ads, which is why people dislike negative campaigning in this sense, rather than the entirely respectable practice of rebutting policy positions and voting records. Character attacks like these purportedly turn people off to politics, although there doesn’t seem to be too much evidence of that at the polling stations. On the other hand, McAuliffe wrote the memoir to bolster his political standing — advertising himself, in a real sense, for his political career — so anything he wrote is certainly fair game for scrutiny. Why he shared these passages from his life is anyone’s guess, but it at least leaves the impression that McAuliffe isn’t in touch with how they make him look.
It’s also early in the campaign, and this won’t add or subtract much to it. Let’s hope that the nonsense burns itself out early, and Virginia voters get to focus on actual issues.