Author: Molly Ivins

Publisher: The Nation

Political reportage is, by its nature, highly perishable writing. Most columnists are content to present an issue rationally, conjuring an air of objectivity and reason to arrive at an editorial conclusion; the Debate Team approach, if you will, and this sort of writing has a notoriously short shelf life.

And then there are a handful of luminaries, including Mark Twain and Hunter S. Thompson, who address their readers as adults who know that the less-than-altruistic motives of the principals shade every issue, so to hell with the charade of objectivity; why not have some fun at a politician’s expense and uncover some truths along the way? Their cynicism and wit are what make their commentaries immortal, and the writings of Molly Ivins certainly belong in that pantheon.

Letters To The Nation is a collection of missives written between 1982 and 2007, the year she died. A publication with a decidedly leftward slant, The Nation provided Ivins an outlet to articulate the rightward creep of her home state of Texas during this period. Her colorful, colloquial prose is the perfect voice with which to mock the foibles and follies of the equally colorful characters inhabiting the Lone Star State’s political landscape.

Some of the targets are well-known, including George W. Bush (Ivins coined the nickname ‘Shrub” for the younger Bush), Rick (“Governor Goodhair”) Perry, Karl Rove, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Charlie Wilson. Others you’d be hard pressed to identify whether you call Texas home or not, but they serve as archetypes for those who strive to cultivate a political career, with all of the requisite character flaws, providing their constituents – and the rest of us - with an endless source of amusement and frustration.

Among other political skirmishes, she covers the infamous flight of Democrats from the state legislature in 2003. In response to a controversial redistricting plan proposed by the Republican majority, the Democrats left the state in order to run out the clock on pending legislation. Gov. Perry “asked neighboring governors to arrest the perps on sight, leading New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid to put out an all-points bulletin on any politicians ‘in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy.’”

As the party in power during the period, the Republicans bear the brunt of her ridicule. “These are Shiite Republicans – they don’t compromise, they don’t deal, they don’t look for the middle way. Because they believe they’re right. They think it’s them against evil. And everybody who ain’t them is evil. I’m just warning you: This is about to happen everywhere. The whole country is being turned into the state whose proudest boast is that sometimes we’re ahead of Mississippi.” That was written twenty years ago in 1993 and, of course, she was prophetic.

Ivins’ caustic criticism could strip the hide from a politician, but she somehow simultaneously tickled the reader’s funny bone. This was a gift, and The Nation is to be commended for making more of Molly Ivins’ gift available to us.

Follow Here To Purchase Molly Ivins: Letters to The Nation

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