And, as a cultural artifact, it’s amusing as a sociological snapshot.
Proxmire extols the use of “new biofeedback machines” to monitor tensions and teach how to control them. “They’re going to be the rage in a few years.” Not really.
In the cringe-worthy category, he recommended that everyone read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” Richard Bach’s allegory about a bird’s quest for higher purpose.
Some of his pop references are not only dated — they turned out to be unfortunate choices. For instance, he referred to Rock Hudson as the picture of health, 12 years before Hudson would die of complications from AIDS.
Perhaps it would have been better to stick with his nods to William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw.
But overall, there is a refreshing candor to the writing that you don’t see from many stilted memoirs or books from political figures. It’s as if Proxmire knows he’s a little bit of a goofball, and that gives him the freedom to say what he believes.
And it’s hard to imagine him not believing strongly in this stuff because the downsides to talking about your own fake hair or calling out Americans for being obese are immense for a political figure.
“Well, you can see how at least one inner-directed person, who also happens to be a United States Senator, thinks — what makes him tick. Maybe you’ll get a good laugh or a long yawn. Why not? It’s a free country,” Proxmire wrote.
The hokeyness of the title (complete with exclamation point) and the book’s incessant calls to keep trying were likely borne out of Proxmire’s own political fortunes.
There were the three empty-handed gubernatorial runs in the ’50s.
And he was a lonely, and persistent, voice speaking in the Senate in favor of the genocide treaty, trudging to the floor 3,211 times from 1967 to 1986 to needle the chamber to ratify it.
“If Proxmire intended to pick a loser on the legislative front, he could not have done any better than the genocide convention,” Samantha Powers wrote in her book, “A Problem From Hell,” a study of 20th-century genocide and the United States.
But Proxmire kept at it, giving his speeches until the Senate ratified the treaty. Several of the chapter and subhead titles sprinkled throughout his book reflect this doggedness: “You Face a Long, Tough Grind,” “The Long, Long Pull,” “Persistence Is the Name of the Game,” “Keep at It” and, perhaps most revealingly for a loner legislator like Proxmire, “You’re Alone.” Voters in Wisconsin seemed to notice.
The 1988 edition of Politics in America, published before Proxmire retired, said “his fanatical year-round campaign style has kept him securely in office without forcing him to spend more than a token amount of money.”
“Even though he regularly wins re-election with more than 60 percent of the vote, Proxmire acts like a man constantly on the verge of electoral extinction,” PIA said.
And about the hair implants? Proxmire wrote that they were part of the process of feeling younger and more confident. “It was an expensive and painful process, but very worthwhile. Of course a decision of this kind is a very personal one — I had been bald for almost fifteen years, so it was very exciting to have hair again,” he wrote.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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