Representative Mom

REPRESENTATIVE MOM: BALANCING BUDGETS, BILL AND BABY IN THE U.S. CONGRESS is a curious book which appears to have caught its author at an awkward moment of transition. It was completed just as Susan Molinari, noted Republican congresswoman from Staten Island (New York City) and keynote speaker at the 1996 Republican National Convention, decided to give up politics for a career in television news. As such, the first word in the book’s title is somewhat outdated.

Nor is the motherhood theme explored in any great depth or with any degree of conclusiveness. Still a fairly new mother at the book’s conclusion, Molinari offers some more or less conventional observations on the tensions between motherhood and career and leaves it at that.

The bulk of this book is a conspicuously selective account of Molinari’s rise to power (with a firm assist from her politically prominent father) and of her bold pursuit of political advancement. Along the way she meets and ultimately marries upstate New York congressman Bill Paxon, a fellow Republican. Indeed, the meatiest and most interesting chapter of this book gives Molinari’s (and presumably Paxon’s) version of what really occurred during the alleged palace revolt against Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at the end of 1996 and beginning of 1997. In Molinari’s telling, Gingrich comes off as a mercurial (if manic) visionary, who, unfortunately, was a chaotic administrator. Majority Leader Dick Armey, on the other hand, is portrayed very simply as a liar and all round rat.

Molinari herself comes across as bright, self-indulgent, and privileged. A crusader for United States action in Bosnia, she seems oblivious to the lower depths of her own society, whining instead about various people who have criticized her over the years. It is highly doubtful that many readers will shed a tear for her.