All You Wanted to Know -- and So Much More
By Al Kamen
Friday, July 2, 2004; Page A13
Move over, Bill Clinton! You're not the only one with a new blockbuster autobiography. Former congressman James E. Rogan, a House impeachment manager in 1998, has written something called "Rough Edges -- My Unlikely Road from Welfare to Washington."
And while Rogan, a lifelong political junkie, may not have become president, he rose from beginnings as equally humble as Clinton's. Rogan was the illegitimate son of a cocktail waitress jailed for welfare fraud. And even so, he ascended to a four-year career as a member of the House and more recently director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Fortunately, there's no discussion of his PTO adventures in this book. He's apparently saving that for a later volume. And there are only four pages on the impeachment crisis. That, too, apparently will be the focus of the second or third book on his life.
No, this book is about his growing up, going to college and law school, then being a local prosecutor, a judge and, finally, a congressman. There are mildly interesting moments, usually when he meets the famous -- President Ronald Reagan, for example. And he recounts meeting a young Clinton, then Arkansas attorney general, at a Democratic gathering in 1978.
But even for his many fans and family nationwide, and despite his frequent use of Cheneyisms -- especially on his bartending job while in law school -- this book meanders endlessly. (Don't miss the bar scenes where Rogan twice pulls a .38 and holds it to customers' heads, once to stop a biker from raping his own daughter in a bathroom.) And we're treated to page after page of largely inane adventures in college and law school. He also notes his wrenching conversion from lifelong conservative Democrat to conservative Republican in his early thirties.
To be sure, there are moments of great poignancy, such as when he must leave college for law school. "As the end of my year as [Democratic] club president approached, it appeared that my newly forged political reputation and alliances would be short lived," he writes. He'd been accepted to UCLA Law School for the fall. "This meant I'd have to say goodbye to all my political contacts and relocate to Southern California. It meant starting all over." Talk about adversity!
"No autobiography," he writes, "is complete without answering the question: 'Whatever became of . . . " So for those who've been wondering, Rogan includes a helpful appendix. In it we learn his grandparents died in the mid-1960s. His great-aunt and "Uncle Ralf" Olson and his "legendary" Uncle Jack, are also gone. Then we learn what his buddies and other friends are doing.
Most interesting, we learn that former president Harry S. Truman died in 1972 and former vice president Hubert H. Humphrey died in 1978.
The book, and the multi-volume approach, it turns out, were former House speaker Newt Gingrich's inspiration, Rogan writes. Gingrich suggested he call this first one "The Jim Rogan Story." "When I told him I didn't think anyone would buy a book about my life, he scoffed. 'You have to sell 30,000 books for it to be considered a commercial success. You can walk into a publisher's office and tell them you have a list of 70,000 donors in 50 states who might buy it.' " (So that's how it's done.) It may not sell as well as Clinton's book, which also went long on yarns, but Rogan has great jacket blurbs from Kenneth W. Starr ("stunningly readable"), Reps. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) and Mary Bono (R-Calif.) and former Watergate great Chuck Colson. Former appeals judge Robert H. Bork found it a "rollicking good tale."
Coming soon to bookstores near you. Only $25.95.
Throwing Stones From Glass Houses
French President Jacques Chirac took President Bush to task a couple of days ago for urging the European Union to approve Turkey's long-overdue admission. Bush should butt out, Chirac said, since the United States isn't a member.
Oh, yeah? Maybe France ought to pay up on its NATO dues by rejoining its military command before it talks about where NATO troops should go? Really. This is like the deadbeat country club member arguing about tee times.
A Defeat for Victory Committee
Remember that story in the Hindustan Times and other papers in India that the Republicans outsourced fundraising phone banks to New Delhi? The story the Republican National Committee repeatedly denied?
Well, turns out they are both right. Seems the RNC has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing an outfit called the Republican Victory Committee, which operates out of Irving, Tex., of "impersonat[ing] the Republican Party to fraudulently raise money by phone and by mail."
The Republican Victory Committee then contracted with a telemarketer who outsourced the calls to India, the RNC complaint said. One caller, asked where he was calling from, said, "The Washington, D.C., of Virginia." This aroused some suspicion.
Unclear how much the Texas operation raised. The tax-exempt group's chairman, Jody Novacek, said the RNC's complaint was untrue. "We are Republican-leaning," she told the Associated Press, "and the funds will be used for voter mobilization at the state and local level."
The Republican Victory Committee started raising money in January, she said, but stopped in April when U.S. postal inspectors started investigating.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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