On the 59th anniversary of the publication of “Advise & Consent,” Allen Drury’s Pulitzer-winning political novel about a progressive secretary of state nominee with communist ties, former Congressman Steve Israel, chairman of the LIU Global Institute, has taken the opportunity to ask a host of America’s leaders to name their favorite political books for a July 11th article in the Washington Post, which once credited Drury for giving “birth to the modern Washington novel.”
“I encountered a literary divide that didn’t necessarily reflect party lines,” Israel wrote. “They just couldn’t get on, well, the same page. Still, the responses show a diversity of literary taste.”
President Bill Clinton picked “All the King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren, a novel about the rise and fall of Louisiana Gov. Willie Stark and his aide Jack Burden, drawing parallels to Huey Long, aka “The Kingfish.” As Clinton said, “Although I have decidedly more faith in the nobility of public service and the power of politics to improve people’s lives than the picture Warren presents, I still think it is the finest American political novel. Its lessons are as relevant today as they were when it was published more than 70 years ago.”
Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a thorn in President Clinton’s side when he occupied the White House, picked Allen Drury’s “Advise & Consent” because, Gingrich explained, it “captures the pattern of legislative fights with a president so brilliantly.”
Former Republican governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, picked Richard Condon’s “The Manchurian Candidate.” “It is a good read,” Bush said, “and shows that the Russians have always tried to get involved in our elections.”
Both Rep. Peter King, the senior head of Long Island’s congressional delegation, and David Axelrod, the former chief strategist for President Barack Obama, chose Edwin O’Connor’s “The Last Hurrah,” which depicts the final campaign of a wily incumbent mayor named Frank Skeffington, whose character is based on Boston Mayor James Michael Curley. King, a Republican from Nassau County, picked this 1956 novel because “it depicts the humanity, reality and toughness of old-style ethnic, machine politics which, with all its faults, understood people and what they wanted.”
To read the choices of the other luminaries who weighed in, click here.
Steve Israel, who represented Long Island’s third congressional district from 2001-2017, is the author of two novels: “Big Guns,” which just came out, and “The Global War on Morris.”