BUSHNELL ON BOOKS: ‘Real Political Tales’

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Review By Bill Bushnell in the KJ and Morning Sentential

REAL POLITICAL TALES: SHORT STORIES BY A VETERAN POLITICIAN by Neil Rolde

Polar Bear & Company, 2014

175 pages, $12.95

Folks have long suspected that politics is just bad theater, and now award-winning author Neil Rolde proves it.

Rolde is a respected public servant and former state legislator who has written a dozen nonfiction books and one intriguing political novel, “O. Murray Carr.” This is a collection of 10 short stories, all fiction, but based on Rolde’s own political experience in state government. His well-crafted writing always entertains and educates, and this collection certainly does both.

However, if Rolde thought these stories would make readers feel all warm and fuzzy about politics and politicians, he may be disappointed. Instead, he reveals just how petty, self-serving and officious politicians can be, who focus more on power than on people.

The stories describe the political process of state government, in the house and senate, the real power of committees and lobbyists, campaigning, debating opponents and who really answers all those letters to the governor.

“The Real Legislative Process” tells how an elderly freshman representative is introduced to the nasty world of political backstabbing and deceitful promises, and how slick, oily lobbyists can manipulate legislators. In “The Liberal” a legislator finally understands how procedural rules are skillfully used to promote or kill a bill, and why open discussions and debates are merely window-dressing (decisions are often already made beforehand, behind closed doors). One of the best stories, “Fishman,” explains the Electoral College and how state delegates are selected.

Other stories poke fun at stuffy veteran career politicians, tell of hilarious pranks that often backfire, how politicians expertly use the media to promote themselves or embarrass their opponents and how arm-twisting, veiled threats and payback deals produce results in a tight vote.

The unstated message here might be: When a politician says “No problem,” he means for him.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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