A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great
BY HIS OWN measure, Ed Rendell, the former two-term Philadelphia mayor, two-term Pennsylvania governor, and Democratic national party chairman, is a great leader. The reason is not that he is smarter or handsomer or richer or more charming than anyone else. It is that he’s a “non-wuss.”
A Nation of Wusses is adolescent self-congratulation leavened somewhat by self-deprecation. This ludicrous book is a collection of colorful yarns more suited for banquet speeches than your bookshelf. The chapter about Swifty, the especially well-endowed donkey chosen as a party mascot in 2000 (Rendell calls him “five-legged”) has no doubt cracked up more than one fundraising dinner. Rendell’s book is breezily written and occasionally entertaining—in other words, somebody did a decent job of writing it for him. And Rendell makes himself the butt of much of his humor. But make no mistake: there is only one hero here.
I think I know exactly how this book came to be. As Rendell explains in the first chapter, the seminal notion arose after the NFL called off a December 26, 2010 match-up between our beloved Eagles (I speak—I breathe—as a Philadelphian) and the Minnesota Vikings because of what turned out to be just a dusting of snow. The irate Governor gave a phone interview in which he lambasted the league for disappointing many thousands of fans—Philadelphians famously love snowy games; the better to hurl snowballs at the field!—and then lamented “We are becoming a nation of wusses.”
The rant stirred up a fifteen-minute kerfuffle online and did a firefly-like turn on the eternal gabfest of cable TV, which prompted an alert editor at The Washington Times to request a full-blown op-ed piece on the subject. One was produced, which then, in the way these things happen nowadays, inspired a publicist to propose what now sadly passes as a book—that is, a puffed-out stand-up routine in print for a celebrity too obscure to snag a prominent moment on HBO.