Regardless of your political leanings, Trey Radel’s memoir about his life in Congress is certain to feed your cynicism about the system.
The aptly titled “Democrazy” is written by the first United States representative in the history of Congress to have been arrested on cocaine possession. A Republican with libertarian leanings, Radel represented Florida’s 19th Congressional District before resigning in disgrace in January 2014.
“Though my story is pretty damn funny and utterly ridiculous at times, it isn’t a comedy,” he writes.
Radel’s brief stay in Washington, after winning the election in 2012 with 63 percent of the vote, was definitely a surreal eye-opener. He found it sickening to see how the legislative sausage is made.
“In politics,” he says, “there are no good decisions, only the least worst ones.”
Here are our two favorite revelations from a book filled with gems:
The first one is silly. It’s the “toothpick rule.” It’s common for expensive cuts of steak and other fine foods to be served on skewers at lavish D.C. parties thrown by lobbyists. That’s because “finger food” is exempt from regulations that forbid members of Congress from accepting gifts from lobbyists.
The second, an explanation why members of Congress rarely thoroughly read the bills they vote on, is deeply unnerving. Radel describes how they often have only a few hours to digest documents that are thousands of pages in length and involve millions of taxpayer dollars.
“Voting has become like the movie ‘Gladiator,' with Joaquin Phoenix giving a bill a thumbs-up or thumbs-down,” Radel writes. “Except nothing in Congress is like a profound Ridley Scott film; it’s more like ‘History of the World: Part 1' by Mel Brooks.”
Someone please save us from ourselves!
By Trey Radell (Blue Rider Press, 320 pages)