Those are two words you’re never likely to hear coming out of Brian Williams’ mouth on the evening news — much to the relief, no doubt, of our former mayor and governor’s right-wing enemies (and perhaps even some of his left-wing friends). As Rendell himself has said over the years, both his style and life have been a little too undisciplined to make him a serious candidate for the Oval Office.
But if you’ve ever wondered what Ed as POTUS would be like — aside from, you know, the aroma of cheesesteaks wafting through the White House residence and chicken-wing stains on the West Wing walls — I urge you to take a look at this month’s Philly Mag cover story, an exclusive excerpt from Rendell’s new book, A Nation of Wusses. In it, the man who helped breathe new life into Philadelphia in the 1990s not only looks back at his three decades in politics, but also sizes up the current state of our union. His analysis: we’ve lost our way because we keep wussing out on big projects and big decisions.
That take — not to mention language — are quintessentially Rendellian, and A Nation of Wusses is filled with plenty of funny stories and insider accounts as only Ed can tell them. But the book’s underlying point couldn’t be more serious: America is at a crossroads, and unless we start electing leaders who are more concerned with the fate of our country than how their messages play to their bases, we’re doomed.
I’m well aware that Rendell’s prescription for solving our problems — essentially, government needs to be more active — is likely to turn off as many people as it will excite in these highly polarized times. But reading the book you can’t help but be reminded of why Rendell has been the most powerful and dynamic Philadelphia political figure of our generation. First, there’s his candor, the sense you get that he is pretty much telling you exactly what he thinks about any given subject. In that, he’s the antithesis of robotic Romney and ultra-cool Obama. Second is the wonky passion Rendell has always exuded for solving problems — whether it’s revitalizing Philadelphia, making Pennsylvania more competitive, or eliminating the Eagles’ red-zone woes.
Candor and problem solving — both of which fall under the now-quaint notion of “leadership” — are two things decidedly lacking from our politics these days. No, Ed Rendell won’t be running for president, or probably anything else in the years to come. But our country could use a few more Eds — and far fewer wusses.