Like many, many Americans, I hate Christmas shopping. It’s not the crowds or searching for deals. No matter how hard I try, I always pick out the wrong gift.
Every year, my gifts seem to include CDs that my kids already have, and brands of scotch that my brother-in-law doesn’t drink. Several years ago, I gave my wife a faux-chinchilla fur coat for Christmas. Her sister is the only one who has ever worn it.
This year, instead of handing out boxes wrapped in shiny foil paper (and the receipts for what’s in those boxes later), I’m giving gift cards to nearly everyone near and dear to me. The only real gift I’m buying is for that one special person in my life who is always so hard to buy for … John Boehner.
For Speaker Boehner, I’ve picked up a couple of books for him to read over the holidays while he’s sitting around the beach working on his winter tan and preparing for the 2011 session.
Son of a Son of a Gambler by Don McNay
As a kid, syndicated columnist Don McNay thought nothing about growing up in a family of professional gamblers. His father and grandfather kept their families in food and clothing via the rackets. No one, including McNay, thought less of them because of it.
After college, McNay abandoned the “family business” and became a respected financial planner. Some might say that he gambles with other people’s money, but he has a license to do so. Today, he is one of the nation’s best known consultants on structured settlements for injury victims and, interestingly enough, lottery winners.
McNay also writes an award-winning syndicated column. His book Son of a Son of a Gambler is a collection of columns about gambling, legal and illegal.
My favorite column of McNay’s involves a phony dry cleaning business in Newport, Kentucky that his father used as a headquarters for his various gambling operations. While still in high school, McNay was the manager of the front room dry cleaning operation. As the back room got much more traffic than the front, it wasn’t a tough job.
Occasionally, someone would wander into the store actually trying to get some clothes dry cleaned. As manager of the store, McNay’s job was to take the order and then find someone else to clean the garments. He calls it his first lesson in outsourcing.
For Speaker Boehner, Son of a Son of a Gambler is also about McNay’s insights into the stupid things lottery winners do with their newfound riches, like spending it all on strippers and booze.
Speaker Boehner is sitting on the winnings of the world’s greatest lottery, America’s annual tax revenues. In the past Congress has annually spent those funds on the federal government equivalent of strippers and booze (e.g., the mating habits of wooly worms).
America needs a structured settlement of our annual revenues. Speaker Boehner can use McNay’s lottery advice to keep his new majority from doing stupid things with our money come January.
The Identity Man by Andrew Klavan
The second book I am going to give to Speaker Boehner is The Identity Man by Andrew Klavan. He is really going to enjoy The Identity Man, because Klavan puts a whole new twist on the time-honored literary topic of redemption.
In the book, petty thief John Shannon has a second chance at life literally thrust upon him when a mysterious man kidnaps him and gives him an entirely new identity. How Shannon handles his forced redemption is tested by his own past (as well as by the fact that someone is trying to kill him).
Boehner needs to read this book very closely and identify with Klavan’s protagonist. When John Shannon gets his new identity, he is warned that he will be tempted to fall back to his old criminal ways. Part of the story line in The Identity Man is Shannon’s struggle to walk a straight and narrow path.
In this past election cycle, Tea Party voters are the not-so-mysterious people who have given Boehner his new identity. And, like John Shannon, temptation will follow him.
Speaker Boehner will likely be tempted on many occasions to fall back to the old free-spending days of Congress, the acquiescence in which got the GOP into trouble in the first place. Boehner’s story line will be whether he can keep his new majority focused on its core values of limited spending and fiscal responsibility.
Whether Boehner and his House Republicans embrace redemption, or whether they fall back to their old ways, remains to be seen. Andrew Klavan’s The Identity Man teaches that the road to redemption, forced or freely accepted, is not easy.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Speaker. Enjoy The Identity Man and Son of a Son of a Gambler. Once you are done with both, please put them on your book shelf of your new Capitol office. In two years you can re-read them (or leave them behind for your replacement).
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.