RICHMOND — Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II’s new book hit stores Tuesday with the public readings and promotion you’d expect to accompany a missive from a big-name political author.
The surprise was that the dramatic readings and calls to buy the book came from Democrats, who hope that the Republican’s book will help sink his gubernatorial campaign.
A handful of Democratic legislators staged a reading of the book, “The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty,” in a Capitol Square office building Tuesday.
“I’m here to talk to you all about the scourge of recreation centers,” Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) began, launching into a section of the book in which Cuccinelli questions whether government should provide swimming pools and skating rinks that the private sector could supply.
“Today’s speakers will urge Virginians to buy and carefully read the book as an important look at the agenda Cuccinelli would bring with him to the Governor’s Mansion if elected,” read the Democrats’ invitation to the event.
Although Democrats’ sales pitch was clearly meant as a backhanded political compliment, Cuccinelli has never been shy about his political views. A hero to his party’s political base in large part because he speaks his mind, he clearly wants voters to buy and read his book, too.
“It’s unfortunate that Democrats in Richmond spent more time this morning reading Ken Cuccinelli’s book than working to fix some of the serious problems facing Virginia today,” Cuccinelli’s campaign manager, Dave Rexrode, said in a statement. “Once again Democrats have decided to cherry-pick statements in an attempt to scare seniors and voters for political gain. The Democrats continue to play political games rather than provide any substantive plans to move Virginia forward and it’s unfortunate for everyone in Virginia.”
Cuccinelli is running to succeed term-limited Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). He faces Democrat Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Lt. Gov. Bill Bollling (R) is considering a run as an independent.
Cuccinelli’s book is largely a blow-by-blow account of the legal fight he and other Republican state attorneys general waged against President Obama’s health-care reform bill. The constitutionality of that measure was upheld last year in a controversial 5 to 4 ruling by the Supreme Court, although Cuccinelli’s own challenge to the measure was dismissed in 2011 and never actually reached the highest court.
Cuccinelli uses the battle over health care as a window into his broader view of the Constitution as a document that helps safeguard individual liberties against encroachment by the government and to make his case that the Obama administration is populated by “the biggest set of lawbreakers in America.” By compelling Americans to purchase insurance, Cuccinelli writes, Obama “did to the American people what the tyrant we rebelled against in 1775 couldn’t even do when we were merely subjects.”
He writes of the “Liberty Pie,” explaining that every slice of the pie that is taken by government laws and regulations leaves less freedom for the people.
Beyond health care, Cuccinelli also uses the book to attack the “draconian regulations” of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to regulate the Internet.
Aside from a few forays into the history of the Constitution and the American Revolution, the book focuses almost entirely on events since 2009, the year Cuccinelli was elected attorney general and the health-care bill passed. Cuccinelli devotes little space to his own personal story, although he does mention a period of his boyhood when his mother became ill and the family did not have health insurance.
His parents sought help from extended family and fought to emerge from debt, Cuccinelli writes, “but despite the hardship, the last thing my parents thought about doing was asking the government to force other people to pay our bills.”
Cuccinelli does not delve into the current political scene in Virginia. He mentions McDonnell only once and does not thank the governor in the book’s lengthy list of acknowledgments. And Cuccinelli never references Bolling, his potential opponent in November.
Democrats who participated in Tuesday’s reading homed in on passages in which Cuccinelli criticizes popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare by suggesting that they make people dependent on government.
Surovell and Del. Alfonso H. Lopez (D-Arlington) were the most successful at getting into character, reading aloud with seeming conviction before adding personal asides.
Lopez recited Cuccinelli’s criticism of expanded prescription drug coverage under Medicare: “It was the largest entitlement program program in forty years, and it was created under Republican president George W. Bush,” he read.
Then Lopez added: “So sayeth Ken Cuccinelli.”