- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

Forget about campaign managers, strategists and fundraisers. What a U.S. senator needs nowadays is a good literary agent.

About 30 of the 100 current U.S. senators have authored books at some point in their careers, and the number is growing.

It isn’t just the 2008 presidential hopefuls churning out autobiographies. Senators are publishing treatises on terrorism, paeans to populism, odes to the Earth and, in one case, the heartbreaking story of a son’s suicide.

Senators have long had literary aspirations, but in the 19th and most of the 20th centuries, they waited to retire before penning memoirs, associate Senate historian Don Ritchie said.

One of the senators to break the mold and publish early in his career was former President John F. Kennedy, author of “Profiles in Courage.” “It launched his national reputation,” Mr. Ritchie said.

Since then, senators have tackled genres ranging from politics to murder mysteries. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, turned out a massive four-volume history of the Senate itself.

Some lawmakers may write books, in part, because it’s one of the few permissible ways to earn outside income. But some senators say they enjoy writing or have something that they can’t say within a standard campaign speech.

In October, Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, fulfilled a longtime wish to write fiction by publishing a steamy novel, a political romance called “A Time to Run.”

Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, in March published a slim volume called “Remembering Garrett: One Family’s Battle with a Child’s Depression,” the poignant story of his son’s suicide and the family’s emergence as mental health advocates.

Barack Obama’s first book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” was a best-seller while he ran for the Senate. The Illinois Democrat is now working on another volume.

“Writing a book is an opportunity to talk in stories rather than in 10-point plans or sound bites,” Mr. Obama said. “It allows me to have a dialogue with readers that’s more complex, with more ambiguities and nuances and shades to it.”

Massachusetts Democrat Edward M. Kennedy just published two books, a liberal cri de coeur called “America Back on Track” and a playful children’s volume called “My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye View of Washington, D.C.”

North Dakota Democrat Byron L. Dorgan’s “Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling Out America,” should reach book stores in a few weeks.

Media-savvy Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York said that he had been approached in the past about writing a book, but now has a message to share with fellow Democrats.

“My book is about ideas. It’s not five little legislative proposals,” Mr. Schumer said of the forthcoming “The 50 Percent Solution: Winning Back the Middle Class One Family at a Time.”

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