‘Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell’
By Tim Miller
around 2022, Harper
“Any Tuesday: A Political Love Story”
By Lis Smith
around 2022, Harper
Field lilies, the Bible tells us, “neither toil nor spin.” If only they had met Tim Miller and Lis Smith!
Miller and Smith, two top spinmeisters wrote memoirs. Fasten your seat belts. These are not the usual stories of lukewarm politicians.
As you read, you will laugh out loud for a minute. Then gulp down your comfort food or libation while worrying (literally) about the fate of our democracy.
“After love, the most sacred thing you can give is your job,” James Carville told staff and volunteers in the final days of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign in a real-life moment by Aaron Sorkin in the 1993 documentary “The War Room”. ”
Miller and Smith both saw “The War Room” when they were kids. Miller would become a Republican strategist who left the party for Trump. Smith would go on to become one of the top Democratic political operatives. But “The War Room” instilled in them a love of public service and political play.
Miller, who lives in Oakland, Calif., with her husband Tyler and their daughter Toulouse, is a former Republican political operative. He was communications director for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign and spokesman for the Republican National Committee during Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Miller left the GOP to become a leader of the “Never Trump” movement. After breaking up with Trump, Miller briefly worked as a consultant for Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration. Now, Miller is an MSNBC analyst, a writer at large with “The Bulwark” and the host of “Not My Party” on Snapchat.
The Republican Party has a history — from Ronald Reagan’s abysmal AIDS record to Donald Trump’s transphobic policies — of being anti-queer. You’re probably wondering how Miller, as a gay man, could handle working for the GOP.
In “Why We Did It” Miller puts himself and some of the people who “enabled” Trump under the microscope.
“America would never have gotten into this mess without me and my friends,” Miller writes, “we were the ‘normal’ Republicans.”
When Trump arrived, they didn’t take him seriously. They didn’t, “indulge in the tears of immigrant children,” Miller writes. Nor would they have been caught “dead in one of those flashy red baseball caps,” he adds.
“Why the hell,” Miller asks, “did the vast, vast majority of seemingly normal, decent people I’ve worked with accept the most abnormal, indecent men?”
The first half of the memoir is Miller’s story of how he “compartmentalized” being a gay man with being a largely homophobic GOP operative.
Take when he worked for John McCain’s presidential campaign. Despite being gay, Miller told McCain to back down after McCain said “gay marriage should be allowed if there’s some kind of ceremony.”
In the second half of the book, Miller examines why people like Elise Stefanik chose to “take the red pill” and work for “MAGA’s great future”.
“Why We Did It” is flat, dark and overwhelming.
Smith, a top Democratic strategist and veteran of 20 campaigns, has worked for everyone from Claire McCaskill to Barack Obama. She was a senior communications advisor for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign.
Fortunately, “Any Given Tuesday” is not a stuffy political memoir. He’s smart, sarcastic and talkative. Smith is James Carville in high heels.
“Any Tuesday” is about Smith’s political life interspersed with stories from his personal life.
Due to sexism, her love life has been politicized. Smith became a tabloid target when she fell in love with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, upon learning of Smith’s relationship with Spitzer, fired her from her job in his administration. (Although she worked for de Blasio’s campaign.)
You wonder if this would have happened if Smith had been a man. But Smith gets de Blasio plenty of digs. After his dismissal, de Blasio tried to win Spitzer’s political approval. “We had both tried to sleep with Eliot,” she wrote of de Blasio’s failure to win Spitzer’s support, “but only one of us had succeeded.” (Smith and Spitzer no longer have a relationship.)
Unlike Miller, Smith doesn’t have to transform into a compartmentalized pretzel to do his job. Like Miller, she jumped on the “game” of campaigns. While Smith doesn’t agree with everything everyone she works for believes in, she’s generally in tune with centrist Democrats.
Among the most interesting chapters of “Any Given Tuesday” are those about his work on the Buttigieg campaign. If you are queer or queer-friendly, even if you disagree with his politics, you understand the historical significance of Buttigieg’s campaign.
Smith’s story on the road with the “Buttibus” and preparing Buttigieg for the Candidates’ Debates is entertaining and informative. It’s poignant when Smith, a seasoned, snarky hack, comes to believe that Buttigieg is “the one” — the candidate who would really serve this country well.
In “Any Given Tuesday,” Smith reveals how democracy’s messy sausage is made. In “Why We Did It,” Miller makes even die-hard atheists pray for democracy to last.
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