Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "Fighting for Life"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Book Review: "Fighting for Life"

“Fighting for Life” is a unique book of alternating stories connecting one person. One story is that of a man facing a fatal disease, undergoing and surviving a rare heart and liver transplant, and returning to productive life. The other is the story of a man who facing adversities reaching his goal of becoming Governor and, on his fourth attempt, is elected and serves two terms. Both stories are of the late Governor Robert P. Casey, and this book is his autobiography.

The one intermingled story is of Bob Casey’s fight against Appalachian familial amyloidosis, a rare disease found only in a few people of Irish descent in Kentucky, West Virginia, Chicago, and then Pennsylvania. (Ironically, a similar disease would later prove fatal to both the Mayors of Pittsburgh and Erie.) It would be his Auditor General successor Catherine Baker Knoll who would get Bob Casey to read a book on transplants by Dr. Tom Starzl that would later lead Dr. Starzl to successfully perform this rare two organ transplant. This is a story of incredible medical work and a fighting patient who survived these procedures and not only would be only be return to work as Governor but continue to become a national leader on several issues.

The other story is that of Bob Casey, the State Senator, Auditor General, and then Governor. Bob Casey would arise from political death after losing three races for Governor. In his first race, he won the endorsement of the Democratic State Committee, failed to respond to his opponent’s “man against the machine” campaign, and discovered too late the mistake in not answering the charges as that slogan helped defeat him. In his second race, he distanced himself from the political machines, only to discover the political machines such as that of Mayor Jim Tate’s in Philadelphia, who then distanced themselves from Casey. In his third race, he was hampered by the inclusion of other Caseys running on the ballot which may have cost him some votes in the confusion.

Still, the name “Bob Casey” held some political magic, even if not initially for Robert P. Casey. Robert Casey, no related to the future Governor, was elected State Treasurer on the basis of having the same name. (Indeed, the Treasurer candidate avoided campaigning to allow the confusion over the two names to build.) Another non-relative named Robert Casey won the Democratic primary for Lt. Governor. Thus, when Robert P. ran for Governor the fourth time, he advertised himself as the “Real Bob Casey”.

Bob Casey is to be credited with upgrading the office of Auditor General. Prior to Casey’s tenure as Auditor General, it was mostly a lesser functioning row office usually held by a relatively inactive politician. Bob Casey turned the office into an aggressive auditor, not only of government finances, but of government functions. This not only provided a more powerful check on executive branch functions, but it also prepared Bob Casey to learn how to become a good Governor.

Finally, on his fourth try in 1986, Bob Casey hired Jim Carville, who had never managed a winning campaign, to be his campaign manager, believing that people who have tried hard without winning would work harder for victory. This proved to be the case as Casey finally won elected as Governor. Jim Carville went on to manage the successful Presidential campaign of Bill Clinton.

As Governor, Bob Casey writes that he is proud that he put “family formation” on a similar perspective as “capital formation”. His Administration fought dead beat dads and made Pennsylvania the top state in child support collections. He fought for and won passage of laws making it tougher to get abortions. He stopped efforts at bringing legalized gambling to Pennsylvania. He created a program that eradicated water borne diseases that had plagued parts of Pennsylvania, providing us all with safe drinking water that today we all take for granted.

This book summarizes Bob Casey, the politician, and Bob Casey, the man struggling against a rare disease. This is a terrific autobiography that brings together Bob Casey, the person.


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