. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spin Doctor Spins Acerbic Memoirs

Ed Rollins, a Republican political consultant with a mouth to match his ego, has written the ultimate kiss-and-yell memoir. In fact, Rollins shouts it from the mountaintop: that his clients are empty heads and scum, except those who listen to him; that their spouses are conniving, interfering neurotics; that his fellow consultants are greedy, unprincipled slime-bags, with the exception of a few who helped his career along.


He accomplishes his bloody task of character assassination with the funny, cutting one-liners and entertaining stories that have made him a much-quoted favorite of political writers for many years.


Bare Knuckles And Back Rooms: My Life in American Politics (Broadway Books, $27.50) written with journalist Tom DeFrank, is a lot like drinking with one of his breed, listening to stories that get better with each round. But what elevates this book considerably above the usual political memoir is not the recounting of old battles but the insight into the mysterious and devious mind of the political manager. This understanding helps explain why the American political system has become so mean, and why so many people are turned off by it.


Rollins' credits include President Reagan's 1984 re-election; the 1993 election of Christine Todd Whitman as New Jersey governor; the Ross Perot 1992 presidential disaster and Michael Huffington's failed California race for U.S. Senate in 1994.


With the exception of Ronald Reagan, whom he admired, and Nancy Reagan, whom he feared, Rollins is contemptuous of the politicians he has encountered.


George Bush is condemned as weak and whiny. Ross Perot is derided for his arrogance and described "an extremely dangerous demagogue with delusions of adequacy who would have been a disaster in the White House." But Rollins reserves his real invective for Michael and Arianna Huffington, "two of the most unprincipled political creatures I'd ever encountered. One was such a complete cipher he gave empty suits a bad name. But his wife was even worse -- a domineering Greek Rasputin determined to ride her husband's wealth to political glory ... [She] was the most ruthless, unscrupulous and ambitious person I'd met in national politics -- not to mention that she sometimes seemed truly pathological.''


In the old days when the candidates were the stars, and campaign managers were backroom boys and girls, this kind of talk was safely restricted to the bar. But Rollins, who has made his eagerness to trash former employers and his scorn for the system more than abundantly clear, has become one of the biggest pundit stars of this week's Republican National Convention. No wonder people are cynical about politics.


--xc