Ed Rendell and His Bitches

Why is the most important Philadelphian of the past 25 years eating microwave dinners at home alone with his golden retrievers? Because a man’s life changes. That’s why

Over the next 14 hours, I will see Ed Rendell do many things, a fair number of which will capture the particular yin and yang of his outsized personality. He’ll talk high-mindedly about America’s humanitarian responsibilities in Libya, then dump ketchup, Fred Flintstone-style, on his omelet at a big-deal New York restaurant. He’ll impress an audience with his knowledge of state budgets, then turn around a few minutes later and scream out the window at an out-of-control bike messenger, “LEARN HOW TO DRIVE!” He’ll speak passionately about the need for the country to rebuild its infrastructure, then practically giggle about how Maggie and Ginger interact with Jesse’s dog, Ike. (“Ike likes to hump Ginger, but he does it from the front. It’s like doggie porno.”) It’s the Full Ed, 14 hours’ worth.

Speaking of dogs: Over the course of the day, I will get a sense of just how smitten Ed is with them. He’ll tell stories about Maggie and Ginger—like how he sometimes lets them eat off his fork—and point out the car window like a little kid at other people’s dogs. It’s both charming and unexpected, though I come to understand that when you’re 67 years old and living on your own for the first time in 40 years, a little furry companionship is not to be underestimated.

“It makes a huge difference being in the house with Maggie and Ginger, as opposed to being in the house alone,” Ed says as we barrel up the Jersey Turnpike through the darkness. “Even with the restrictions on your freedom.” Man’s—Ed’s—best friends.

IT’S QUITE A THING to behold, really—the arc of Ed Rendell’s life. In short: Jewish kid from New York comes to Philadelphia to go to school, gets involved in politics, gets elected D.A. His ambitions grow, but he loses a race for governor, then loses another for mayor, and his name—Fast Eddie—becomes a political punch line. But he decides to take one last crack at it, and—boom!—his timing and leadership style are so spot-on that he not only spends eight years as mayor, but becomes a walking, cheesesteak-ingesting embodiment of our city. He climbs even higher—chairman of the Democratic National Committee, governor of Pennsylvania, friend and confidant of the most powerful people in America, which is fitting because he himself is one of the most powerful people in America.

Now, though, two decades after Ed Rendell really became Ed Rendell, Philadelphia’s first citizen finds himself at an uncertain moment. For the first time in nearly four decades, he’s neither holding nor eyeing political office. His career as an elected official is over, a fact about which Ed is visibly melancholy. “It’s not the same,” he sighs when someone asks him, as people often do these days, how he likes his new life. “When you’ve done what I’ve done for a lifetime, you’re never gonna replace it.” He makes no bones about the fact that he’d love to run for another office, if only there were another office to run for: “The only public office I would be interested in is president, and I’m not crazy enough to think I would have a chance to be president.” He consoles himself with what is either a rock-solid plan or a pipe dream: running Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president in 2016, then serving as her chief of staff. (Which of course raises the question: Who would be Ed’s chief of staff?)

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  • Amanda

    A story about Ed Rendell is usually not appealing to me. The title and first few sentences drew me in and I couldn’t stop reading. Although it’s not Shakespeare, I loved every word of it it…especially the title!

  • Diana

    That picture is the most disturbing thig I’ve ever seen.

  • Mandy May

    I loved reading this story. The writer managed to turn an article which would normally be boring into something funny and intriguing. After reading the story I have a new perspective on Ed Rendell…and his bitches!