Book 'Em

Let's just agree up front that there's no augury or metaphor in it, but the fact remains that South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle spoke at length for the first time about his new book, which is due out in November, at something called the Deadwood Pavilion. Addressing an audience at his state's first-ever book fair, Daschle said he wrote the tome, titled Like No Other Time, because he had "a compelling story to tell," adding, somewhat cosmically, that "history is not written at a constant pace. It is sometimes accelerated."

"Accelerate," meanwhile, is undoubtedly what many Democratic senators -- perhaps Daschle included -- wish they could do with the number of days remaining in the term of their colleague from Georgia, Zell Miller. That's because Miller, too, has turned authorial; but where advance word on Daschle's book suggests that it will be a polite paean to his colleagues and their will to soldier on after 9-11, Miller's product (published in October) is of a different character. A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat purports to explain, behind that subtitle that consciously echoes a famous book by Barry Goldwater from 40 years ago, how the Dems have lost touch with the common folk. The money quote that showed up in all the pre-publication wire stories is this: "Once upon a time ... FDR looked south and said, 'I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.' Today our national Democratic leaders look south and say, 'I see one-third of a nation and it can go to hell.'"

Miller has a bit of a point. The Democratic Party understands the South about as well as, um, about as well as the Republican Party understands the Northeast (although something tells us we'll never be seeing a book by Rhode Island gop Sen. Lincoln Chafee called National Party No More: The Conscience of a Liberal Republican). Miller's juxtaposition, though, is a strange one. Is his gripe about the Democratic Party really that it isn't doing enough to house, clothe and feed the multitudes? If so, voting for every Bush tax cut seems a strange way to protest.

The two books land at a fascinating moment in political bookdom. The right wing learned during the 1990s how to buy books en masse and dominate the best-seller lists. Our side has just recently figured it out, and liberals, after not caring for the better part of 20 years, are buying partisan books again in large numbers. It'll be very interesting to see who outsells whom -- although it's unlikely that either will catch up to a certain other senator-turned-author whose recently published book you may have heard a little about. We don't know who'll win the sales contest. But we do know who'll be more popular in the cloakroom.

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