Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016

by Joe Shea
AR Book Review Editor
Bradenton, FL
May 20, 2016
AR Book Review

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BRADENTON, Fla., May 15, 2016 -- It's a rare occasion when we break with tradition and post a book review on our front page. But "Confessions of Congressman X" belongs on the front pages of every newspaper in America, and deserves the wall-to-wall television coverage that Donald Trump gets for saying the same things.

The back story of this book is expertly told in his Introduction by Robert Atkinson, the well-known travel writer who took notes on his conversations with Congressman X over quite a few years and won his permission to publish them. The two men had become friends, ironically, over discussions about the exotic and wonderful places both have visited in their careers.

In pulling out quotes for this review, I soon piled up so many pages it became impossible to include all or even most of them here. You'll have to get the book.

Almost every page is eminently quotable. Like Mitch Mconnell, he says, "Harry Reid is a pompous ass." And this politician's comments are not intended to offend other genders, races and religions, but are nonetheless some of the most frank, provocative and controversial I have ever read. They shock us out of our ignorance.

Take this one:

It's far easier than you think to manipulate
a nation of na´ve, self-absorbed sheep who
crave instant gratification.

Like most of my colleagues, I promise
my constituents a lot of stuff I can never
deliver. But what the hell? If it makes
them happy hearing it, and they're stupid
enough to believe it, shame on them.

And that's just Page 10. Here's another:

Nobody here gives a rat's ass about the
future and who's going to pay for all this
stuff we vote for. That's the next generation's
problem. It's all about immediate publicity,
getting credit now, lookin' good for the
upcoming election.

Or this:

Getting reelected requires the old give and
take. First, you have to give away taxpayer
monies to provide legislative favors, tax
breaks, and subsidies to constituents and
special-interest groups. You then take some
back in the form of donations from those
to whom you've provided such favors, tax
breaks, and subsidies. Ain't democracy

For progressives and Democrats, these statements seem like the words of a stone-drunk Republican. They're not. Congressman X identifies himself as a progressive Democrat, but refuses to say anything else that might allow readers to search out his identity. In any case, the Congressman assures us that nothing is any different on the other side of the aisle.

Not surprisingly, and again much like Trump, he is no fan of the media:

Journalists are a lot like the politicians they interview. The more elite ones are puffed up with self-importance and entitlement. And in their spare time they plot ways to achieve the fame and power they so rightfully deserve. [Laughs]. No surprise their favorite social event is the White House Correspondents' Dinner schmooze-fest. See and be seen. It's the name of the game.

Most people don't expect objective news coverage of election campaigns. Trustworthy icons like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow are artifacts of the past. Today, it's all about subtle headlines, nuanced camera angles, cunning editing and story placement.

Political columnists, TV commentators, and talk show hosts are inherently biased and aspire to effect election outcomes. Pretending otherwise is a thing of the past. You're either red or blue, and there's no in-between. Little wonder voters flock to TV stations, newspapers, and websites offering them the partisan news slant they believe in.

Politicians react to the opinions shaped by the media and polls. Think of the media as the Pied Piper, and we're the rats dutifully following their lead and developing our views accordingly.

The news media is as biased as the politicians it covers. Some of my constituents worship those talking heads on cable TV. They parrot their views to seem knowledgeable and hip. That's why I try to keep cozy with the chattering press, occasionally throwing 'off-the-record' breadcrumbs their way. It's all a game. Scratch me, I'll scratch you, and we'll both look good.

Cable news pundits have gained influential status in recent years, so it's always good to snag a live interview. The folks back home love it and consider me a celebrity whenever I appear on TV. God knows why.

The media cover Congress like a soap opera. They make something out of nothing. It's all about staging, storylines, trivialities, myth making, and myth taking. It's never about truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Straight reporting of the facts is too boring. The masses want to be entertained.

Book reviewers were spared in the Congressman's rant, but I suspect he feels the same about those who publish reviews in the major newspapers. I don't claim to be exempt, but I usually let readers know I'm a Democrat with a proud family history of Republicanism who is usually uncomfortable with both sides.

It would be a shame if this book were overshadowed by journalism's latest and greatest coup, the publication of the Panama Papers that has toppled heads of state and profoundly embarrassed many of the rich and powerful - who will be feeling their sting for many years to come, as there were 11.5 million pages of revelations - and reassured readers around the world that there still is some integrity and value in the press.

In that context, it's quite possible that these raw assertions and countless others from a Member of Congress will be overlooked. But if you think that the Donald's dismissive statements aimed at Congress and the press are ludicrous, it's probably useful to know that a sitting progressive Democrat has said the same things at length for public consumption.

I just wish that Congressman X had as much courage as Donald Trump does to stand behind them. Then, I think, the headlines might never stop.

"Confessions of Congressman X" will be released on May 24. We are grateful to the author, Robert Atkinson of Mill City Press in Minneapolis, Minn., for providing an advance copy to the American Reporter.

Joe Shea is a writer and poet whose last novella, POWER, is available on Amazon.com. Write him at amreporter@aol.com.

Copyright 2016 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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