Continetti in Claremont Review of Books: The Washington Senators

Sens. Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse

Sens. Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse / Getty Images

I must be a glutton for punishment. Toward the end of last year, I spent some time reading seven books by five different senators: Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Mike Lee, Al Franken, and Elizabeth Warren. When I was finished I wrote up my observations for the Claremont Review of Books, which was gracious enough to publish them. Maybe the editors pitied me.

In any case, much to my surprise, the books I reviewed helped me to understand the current political moment, as well as the differences between Republicans and Democrats. Always the squish, I found that I enjoyed the Democratic books more. I will have a lot to confess at the next meeting of the Republican establishment.

The editors of the Claremont Review, one of the most important journals of the Trump era, have unlocked my essay for Free Beacon readers. That's what friends are for! Below are the opening paragraphs. You can read the rest here.


Why do senators write books? They have plenty of other things to be doing: constituent service, legislation, presiding over committees, delivering speeches, and raising money, for starters. Yet the impulse to scribble remains. According to official records, authors comprise more than a third of the current Senate, from Kirsten Gillibrand (Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World) and Angus King (Governor’s Travels: How I Left Politics, Learned to Back Up a Bus, and Found America) to Claire McCaskill (Plenty Ladylike) and James Inhofe (The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future). Doesn’t matter if your senator is on the left or on the right, male or female, from a big state or a small state, famous or invisible. He is probably an author. The liberal Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, for example, has written two books. If this is news to you, don’t worry. He probably hasn’t read them either.

There have been literary senators, of course, legislators whose book-writing predated their election and for whom writing was a large part of their being. I think of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the last Senate intellectual, and of James Webb, and even of Barack Obama. For the most part, though, senatorial books are instrumental. They are ways of elevating a senator’s profile, of guaranteeing him television appearances, of having his name floated for president. They might also be a way of laying down a marker, of identifying the senator with a particular agenda or ideological movement. The authors of this sort of book do not necessarily intend for you to read it. What they want is for you to notice it. …

Read the rest of "Senators and Their Pages" at the Claremont Review of Books.