The Cranky Old Reader

I'm a Goodreads refugee, looking for a new home. Old books for children, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and humor are my main areas of interest. I've little interest in books that were written after 1975 or so, and prefer books that are older still. There are, however, a few still-living authors that I respect.

Too Funny to Be President

Too Funny to Be President - Morris K. Udall, Bob Neuman, Randy Udall The late Congressman Morris "Mo" Udall was one of that rare breed: the successful progressive Western politician. He was also noted for his sense of humor. Too Funny to be President is his autobiography, but it's more a collection of Udall's jokes (and of other political humor that he enjoyed over the years) than a true autobiography.The book was written during the first Reagan term, but it's truly startling to see so many familiar names. Even thirty years later, a lot of the people that Udall knew and worked with are still in the halls of power. One anecdote in particular fascinated me: it was about fringe 2008 Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel of Alaska. According to Udall, he was, despite being a fellow Democrat, quite the loose cannon; in fact, Udall portrays him pretty clearly as an out-and-out kook. What I hadn't heard was that long ago Gravel blocked a major piece of legislation about the division of land in Alaska, making it necessary for him to make a special flight back to Alaska to regroup and plan strategy with his fellow Senator: Ted Stevens. Senator Stevens, of course, is noted for having been recently convicted on seven felony charges, and finally lost his seat two days ago on his 85th birthday, when he was defeated in his attempt to win re-election.Here's the interesting thing: because of Gravel's apparently out-of-the-blue refusal to accept a previously-negotiated compromise, Stevens had to fly back to Alaska with his wife. Their plane crashed while attempting to land. Stevens was badly injured, and his wife was killed. She was, of course, his first wife; it was his second wife who attempted to shoulder the blame for his misconduct at his recent trial.Stevens blamed Gravel for his wife's death for the rest of his life, according to Udall.The book is studded with interesting stories about political figures from today's headlines. It's also filled with stories and humor from much of America's history.That said...I have to admit that I was surprised that the book wasn't funnier. Udall comes off as an awfully funny, nice guy (it's a pity that witty, progressive Mormon politicians like him are so rare compared to relatively humorless conservative LDS members like Orrin Hatch, Mitt Romney, and even Harry Reid). He was, with a few missteps, a good environmentalist and an extremely intelligent and liberal Democrat.But while there were definitely a few good laughs in the book, I'd heard many of his stories before. In some cases, even from the same book! There was a surprising amount of duplication of stories within the book itself, which seems quite inexplicable to me. Of course many of his best stories have since been picked up and used by others, which inevitably makes them lose their freshness.Nonetheless, I certainly don't regret reading Too Funny to be President. Although some of the humor fell flat, enough of it worked and there were enough interesting anecdotes to make it worth the time. I just wish that Udall had had a chance to actually be President.

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