A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future, by Jennifer Granholm and Dan Mulhern (Public Affairs Books. $27.99).
Years ago, campaigning in Michigan against Walter Mondale, President Ronald Reagan quipped, “If his administration were a novel, you’d have to read from the back to the front to get a happy ending.” Thanks to the recession and the near-collapse of the domestic auto industry, that was also true of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s two terms.
Great things were expected of the state’s first female executive when she took office in 2003. A charismatic speaker, she was being touted for national office before she was even sworn in for her first term. Eight years later, she left the governorship and the state, deeply unpopular with voters and bitterly mocked for her infamous comment that the economic prosperity of her second term would “blow you away.”
Less than a year after her move to California, Granholm is out with a book about her years as governor. Officially, this is a joint effort by Granholm and her husband, Daniel Granholm Mulhern, although it’s written in her voice. As political memoirs go, it’s odd — partly a polemical rant justifying her administration and policies and partly a portrait of a marriage strained by pressures and professional jealousy.
What it’s not, is an accurate, comprehensive history. There’s no mention of the time she appeared on stage, beaming, with a professional con man to whom her administration had just awarded millions in tax credits. Also missing: any word of her role in the disastrous attempt to rig the 2008 Democratic primary for Hillary Clinton. The characters speak in oddly stilted dialogue that seems a mix of Ayn Rand and psychobabble: “His words finally pierced my hard, self-pitying armor. It was my ego that was sucking me down, my ego that had always been rewarded and fueled by success.”
The book is crafted to show Granholm standing alone against a hostile world, fighting to keep jobs and reinvent Michigan’s economy.
That said, there are worthwhile aspects, particularly the final chapters, in which she (or they) discuss lessons learned in competing for jobs in a global economy. Clearly, Granholm battled long and earnestly to cope with economic problems for which she was sometimes unfairly blamed. But those seeking a balanced history of these times will have to await a future book.