Q&A: Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell

Outspoken and oftentimes polarizing, Ed Rendell will tell you exactly what’s on his mind. His new book, A Nation of Wusses, does just that, and then some.

Short-winded he’s not. And chances are, you won’t hear him mincing words anytime soon—or ever. Former governor Ed Rendell remains a force to be reckoned with on the air (providing analysis on Eagles Postgame Live) and in legal circles (as special counsel for Ballard Spahr). Whether you agree with him or not, the man will be heard, one way or another. His new book, A Nation of Wusses, pretty much says it all.

MLT: How did the book come about?
ER: As my elective office wound down in 2010, it was pretty clear that I wasn’t going to run for anything else in the realm of public service. What I understood from my 34 years in the game was that there was a severely deteriorated level of ability to get things done, and that they’d been getting done so badly, and that our country was in desperate trouble because of it. We need to do something to change the direction we’re headed in, and maybe an entertaining book will make people think and say to themselves, “I ought to roll up my sleeves and get this done.”

MLT: Whether you’re talking about Eagles fans or politicians, what’s your definition of a “wuss”?
ER: Someone who doesn’t have the courage to do what they know is right, even if it involves risks. Losing your office is the single worst thing in the game of politics, and people have become so afraid of losing these positions that they’ve become risk-averse. They’ll do anything to go along with the public opinion polls, and then try to convince those people that it’s the right thing to do. If you don’t believe that some issues are so important that you’d risk losing your position to advance that cause, then you shouldn’t be in this business.

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MLT: What can readers learn from the book?
ER: People can learn that they can make a difference and that they can overcome the special interests in politics if they just speak up and write a letter. The reason the NRA petrifies everyone in Washington is because they can get 500 letters into every legislative office at the drop of a hat. No one else writes or calls, so there’s no counterbalance. We can make adifference if we band together.

MLT: Which politician could we all learn a lesson from?
ER: Abraham Lincoln. Talk about a person who took the ultimate risks. He was absolutely the right person for the job when he talked about the need to end slavery.

MLT: What changes do you hope to see in Pennsylvania?
ER: I’d like for us to focus again on the need to invest successfully in education. People think that all government spending is bad. A lot of it is bad. But plenty is very, very important and useful, and produces great results. If we invest in our children’s growth and our personal growth, we’ll all continue to flourish.

MLT: Where do you see our area in all of this?
ER: The Main Line is still the economic driver of the region, and it will continue to drive so much of that regional growth in areas like research and develop ment for pharmaceuticals and technology. In all five counties of the metro area, the biggest competition has been in the west.

MLT: What sort of connection do you feel to our region?
ER: There’s a tremendous level of affection and a lifelong connection. Nothing could make me leave the area. We don’t always have the confidence in ourselves that we should, but we are a great people.

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