Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Fire-Breathing Liberal (review)

Fire-Breathing Liberal

How I learned to survive (and thrive) in the contact sport of Congress

By: Robert C Wexler with David Fisher

Summary to come. (eventually….)

Brief summary
The book is a history of Rep. Robert Wexler’s time in the House and the various political fights he’s gotten into in his time. It’s part biography (politicians do-so-love to talk about themselves) and part civics lesson. Both parts are delivered with a know-it-all humility and liberal slant.

Was it a good book?
Yes. Quite amusing, even in the parts I disagreed with him, it was a thoroughly amusing book exposing the inner workings of congress. His discussion about why he wanted to be on the judiciary committee, as well as back-room discussion about how you get such a seat, was very interesting. Him answering foreign dignitaries about the President was very revealing, and his personal take on the hanging chads in the 2000 election (it was his district) are al very interesting, well written, and thoroughly absorbing.

The good?
Call me a wonk all you what, my favorite parts were the civics lessons. How government really works from the inside. For example, did you know that for the 2 minutes before every vote the traffic lights between the Capital Building and the congressional offices across the street all go red? That way congressmen can literally stall to the last moment and then race across the street without getting run over. Or that they have cubicles for outgoing congressmen are right out of some sitcom? I found that stuff highly enjoyable. I even started a conversation about this stuff with some friends over beer. Yeah, I got blank stares and then they changed the conversation. 😦

The bad?
I don’t have much negative to say about the book. It’s well written, it’s amusing, and it’s informational. The parts I may not agree with are policy points that I won’t mark against the book. The goal of the book is, I think, to just be an interesting read. I really don’t think the guy is even trying to get people to vote for him, as he says, he has a very safe seat and hasn’t had anyone run against him in years. So for the bad I’ll put “He’s hardcore liberal” Take that tree huggers.

The book covers some of the most controversial political events of he last several years and does so while interjecting a lot of personal in-the-action perspective. He was involved in the impeachment of Clinton, tried to impeach Bush, was there for the 2000 election disaster, and as a Jew discusses the equally disastrous Israel/Palestine situation.

A good book if you want to understand how congress works, a great book if you’re a liberal and want to agree with the guy you’re reading.


“With enthusiasm and candor, a passionate Democratic congressman gives readers an inside look at the House of Representatives during a period of declining government accountability . . . Wexler’s Southern Florida district was the center of the “butterfly ballot” controversy during the 2000 election, and he angrily recounts the zeal and heartbreak he saw in his elderly constituents, hundreds of whom mistakenly cast votes for Pat Buchanan that were never properly recounted. A staunch supporter of Israel and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he endured a tense meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad because he saw it as an opportunity to learn more about a powerful figure in Middle Eastern relations. When Assad asked, “Is George Bush crazy?” Wexler’s description of the thought process behind his carefully phrased answer offers a mini-lesson in diplomacy. His clarity and humanity in no way dampen his zest for picking fights. His list of Republican misdeeds includes strong-arming for votes, using fear to galvanize public support, misleading Congress into war and illegally wiretapping citizens . . . After loudly decrying the Clinton impeachment on the grounds that the president did not betray his country, he now declares that a worthy candidate for impeachment currently sits in the White House. Yet Wexler never loses humor or optimism. His wife, children and belief in democracy keep him grounded and working hard for civility and the ideals on which the nation was founded . . . Wexler’s approachable, eye-opening political autobiography overflows with intriguing detail and insight.”
–Kirkus Reviews

“I enjoyed Congressman Wexler’s book even more than I enjoy cocaine and prostitutes.”
–Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report

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