The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

That time when Michael Grimm and his opponent couldn’t name a single book they had read

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
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No matter whether embattled Rep. Michael Grimm or his Democratic challenger Domenic Recchia wins New York’s 11th district race in six days' time, Staten Islanders can be sure that their new member of Congress won't be a big reader.

Both of the candidates at last night's debate failed to answer a lightning round question that debate moderator Errol Louis said wasn't actually even supposed to be one of the "stumpers." The question? "What was the last book that you read?" 

"Wow. It’s been a while. I haven't had time to read. I think it was a Tom Clancy book. I don’t remember the name,” said Grimm. Weirdly, that was a way better answer than what Recchia came up with. "We're on the campaign trail," Recchia said. "We’re talking to the people." So, um, on the book thing?

Here's the clip so you can enjoy it yourself.

This is the sort of question that, ideally, gives candidates an opportunity to say something about what they're like beyond their political convictions. "Inevitably a reporter will ask you to name your favorite book or a book you're currently reading, hoping to uncover a truth about your inner self," Dave Weigel wrote at Slate during the 2008 elections. (Editor's note: I am currently reading "All That Is Solid Melts Into Air." Draw your own deep conclusions.)

For a candidate, being able to name a good, safe book when asking about reading habits should be as knee-jerk as enjoying a small-town slice of apple pie.  Or kissing a baby. Or being in an ad with puppies prominently featured.

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