Book review

Who will you vote for, come November?

No doubt, you probably know who you’re not voting for, but at least one candidate on your party’s ticket has captured your attention. Now, you just have to hope nobody does anything to jeopardize that or make you change your mind.

In the new book, “Political Suicide” by Erin McHugh, you’ll see that all kinds of things can go wrong.

Politicians are human.

There are surely times when you’d like to think otherwise, but the truth is they laugh, they cry, they love — and they do boneheaded things. Their greed gets the better of them.

Their egos need stroking, or their tempers take over.

Take, for instance, Daniel Sickles. Though the New York State assemblyman was a known philanderer himself, he was furious that his missus enjoyed a dalliance. Sickles killed his wife’s lover in 1859 and was put on trial. He pleaded temporary insanity, becoming the first person to successfully be acquitted in that manner.

Throughout history, there have been many scandalous quirks in politics. One congressman served his country from an insane asylum. One was re-elected to Congress while in jail. And one notable congressman told a mega-whopper of a lie to gain his seat, then tried to explain it by saying that he was “a prisoner” of his own story.

There’s money to be found in politics — although, unfortunately, it doesn’t always belong to the politician. That doesn’t always stop them from taking the cash, however. One state treasurer who called himself “Honest Dick,” was not.”

Imagine the shock when one small town discovered that its comptroller-treasurer “stole $53 million ... money right out of the pockets of her friends and neighbors.”

There have been sex scandals aplenty in politics, words that went awry and many big mouths. Racism has reared its terrible head, as has double-crossing and blame-laying.

Looking for a little levity in the wreckage of this political year? You’ll find some between the lines in “Political Suicide,” but don’t expect belly laughs or goofy stories. No, McHugh gives readers lots of true (and outrageous!) tales, but the humor comes from the situations themselves more than from the author.

McHugh is quick to point out the ridiculousness of what happened, but she also puts things into historical and cultural perspective.

What’s more, her accounts seem sympathetic now and then, especially when naivete is involved. That gives readers a nice balance of silly, sad, and scandalous. What’s not to like about that?

Nothing, that’s what. So, White House watchers, voters, fed-up folks and historians should want to read this book. If you need a hint of disgracefully-laden lightheartedness between now and Nov. 8, “Political Suicide” is just the ticket.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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