When I first heard that former Governor Jennifer Granholm was writing a book focused on her time in office, I was puzzled.
John Engler, a political powerhouse who substantially remade Michigan, wrote no such book. Neither did Jim Blanchard or Soapy Williams or Bill Milliken. They all had governorships far more successful than Granholm’s, in large part for economic reasons beyond her control. Nor, according to the polls, are Michiganders still enraptured with their first female governor’s every word.
So why would she write this book? I was set straight by a longtime titan of the state Democratic Party. “Jacky boy, this book isn’t going to sell in Michigan. It isn’t written for us. This book was written to solidify her reputation with the New York and Washington media, so she can keep her MSNBC commenting job.” And, he added, to present her version of history to the world.
Well, I always was a trifle naïve. So I decided to read the book, called “A Governor’s Story,” and subtitled “The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future.” Somewhat bizarrely, it lists her husband, the erstwhile “first gentleman” as co-author, though it is written entirely in the first person. Early on, it becomes clear that a more accurate title might have been “Alone,” or more simply, “Me.”
Michigan had a secretary of state and an attorney general throughout the Granholm years. But you won’t find them mentioned. Nor will you find the chair of the Democratic party, the man her party nominated to succeed her, or the name of the current governor. Former Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel is mentioned once, but she misspells his name. No, apparently there was just Jennifer.
Jennifer Granholm taking on all the forces of evil, with her husband watching the children, resenting this a bit, and occasionally giving her useful advice, as when he tells her, “Maybe it’s okay for you to be lost, Jen. Maybe it’s okay for you to be human. Read the Bible … my point is, you‘re not God.
“So let go. Let go of the ego.”
Granholm responds, “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. My ego that blocked my ability to accept the reality. It would take longer than I had to fix the state.”
Then she tells her husband, “Thanks for caring so much.” Throughout the book, her characters talk in this heavily stilted dialogue that is sort of Psychology Today meets Ayn Rand.
Her obsession with presenting herself as the lone ranger leads to a few mild falsehoods. She has an aide telling her early on election night that she would be “the lone Democrat in a sea of Republicans,” that Gary Peters had been defeated for attorney general.
Actually, that conversation couldn’t have occurred since Peters was leading then, and the race was so close he didn’t concede for twenty days. This book is not totally without merit.
Her chapter on creating jobs in a global economy isn’t all that deep, but is worth a read. But if you are looking for a definitive history of what happened to our state in those years, it has yet to be written.