Olympia Snowe book party: Congress ‘doesn’t have to be this way’

May 23, 2013

There’s a powerful demand out there for the juicy personal-life stories of powerful women — the finding-my-voice stuff, the crying-in-the-bathroom memories, the overcoming-sexism journeys. So you have to admire Olympia Snowe for resisting that lucrative trend.

Olympia Snowe during deliberations on the fiscal cliff, in December, during her final days in the Senate. (Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images)
Olympia Snowe during deliberations on the fiscal cliff, in December, during her final days in the Senate. (Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images)

The former Republican senator from Maine’s new book,  “Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress,” probably won’t get her booked on Oprah. Snowe has led a novelistic life — orphaned as a child, widowed at 26 — but devotes fewer than 30 pages to her life before she was elected to Congress at age 31.

And she devotes a mere paragraph to her decade-long courtship with Jock McKernan, during which time they served in Congress together, and their marriage — which, since he was by then governor of Maine, made her both first lady and congresswoman. (Okay, we’ll confess: We would have liked to hear a little more about that.)

Instead, she wrote the story she believed she needed to share — a legislative history of a time before all-out partisan rancor, plus her prescriptions for change. (Suggestions: filibuster reform; biennnial budgets; senatorial salaries withheld if a budget isn’t passed; campaign finance reform; open primaries.)

Snowe at her Capitol Hill book party on Wednesday. (Amy Argetsinger / The Washington Post)
Snowe at her Capitol Hill book party on Wednesday. (Amy Argetsinger / The Washington Post)

“I want people to know it used to be different,” Snowe told friends and former colleagues at a book party at the Monocle restaurant Wednesday night, “and that it doesn’t have to be this way. . . governing by brinksmanship and deferral and deadline.”

The gathering — hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center, where Snowe is now a senior fellow — was populated by guests including other former moderates no longer in Congress: Mike Castle, Blanche Lincoln, Connie Morella. Snowe said it was a surprise not only to voters when she announced last year she wouldn’t run again, “it was a surprise to me as well.” But “I came to the cold hard decision that partisanship would not be resolved” any time soon, she said.

She told us that the book — written on an ambitious timeframe, after signing with a publisher just last summer — was never intended to be her personal memoir. “Maybe for another time,” she said. But she did make a point of sprinkling some old stories into her book, “only to the extent it gave readers a sense of what influenced me” and carried over into her political life.

“I’m a fighter and a survivor,” she said, “and I used those traits to champion what I believed in.”

Also in The Reliable Source:

Quoted: Jerry Lewis still doesn’t like female comedians

President Obama’s prom night photo: Wow, Hawaii in the 1970s!

Briefly: Helen Mirren; Fake Psy; Ricky Schroder

James Cameron dives onto National Geographic’s cover

Chelsea Clinton’s new gig: A multicultural center at NYU

Celebvocate: Sean Penn testifies about American detained in Bolivia

SECTION: {section=lifestyle, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=lifestyle, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments
Next Story
Amy Argetsinger | May 23, 2013