Ed Rendell Still Thinks We’re a Nation of Wusses

In an excerpt from his spirited new memoir, A Nation of Wusses, the former DA, mayor and governor dishes on the cheesesteak that changed his career, his buddy Bill Clinton, and why exactly the U.S. seems to be losing its mojo.

A Smart Jewish Lawyer

My political career almost ended in 1987, when I lost my second major election in 12 months. (The first was for governor; the second, for mayor.)

In politics, as in life, the world loves winners and outright shuns losers. I went back to practicing law and trying to raise enough money to pay off my campaign debts, including a second mortgage taken out on our Shore home. Good luck! People would actually cross over to the other side of the street when they saw me coming, because they thought I would ask them for money. Lose two elections in 12 months and you find out who your friends are, and there aren’t a whole lot of them. I could barely raise $100, but one day a check for $5,000 came in the mail from Leonard Tose, the former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, with a note that read, “Hope this helps. You did the right thing in running. Hang in there and don’t get discouraged.” I barely knew Leonard, but I never forgot his kindness, and when he fell on hard times near the end of his life, it gave me great joy to be in a position to help him.




Well, I settled into my routine at the law firm. Every once in a while, someone would write an article about the 1991 mayor’s race. I was always mentioned, but immediately written off as a two-time loser, a hopeless also-ran. Everyone had counted me out, but the embers still burned deep in my heart.

I was sincerely torn. On the one hand, I hadn’t lost my desire to serve. I still thought I had something to contribute and could help turn Philadelphia around. On the other hand, I didn’t want to lose another high-profile election and subject myself, my wife Midge and our son Jesse to the derision and abuse that come with that. And besides, I wasn’t sure I really had a chance to win.

By March 1990, I knew I had to decide soon. If I was going to run, I needed to start raising money almost immediately. I agonized over it until one night when I was coming home—Midge and Jesse were away—and I stopped at a cheesesteak place close to our house. I placed my order and stood back to wait. I saw an older lady also waiting for her order. She looked Irish, somewhat disheveled, and almost toothless. She kept staring at me, and finally she said, “Are you Rendell?” I said that I was. She then asked, “Well, are you going to run for mayor?” I was surprised and replied, “I don’t know. What do you think?” She paused and thought about it for a little while, rubbed her chin, and then said, “You have to. This city is so fucked up that only a smart Jewish lawyer can turn it around.”

I was juiced! If this little old lady understood that the city was in such bad shape that it needed someone smart to turn it around, then I had a chance.

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  • eddie the hat

    Eddie’s closing line tells it all…a corrupt politico
    who stole the game from the mob and became
    what the govt. is asked to protect us from.
    Slime and Slick Willie needed extra strength
    to protect their porn star conquests.
    Why not share some truth in a Buzz Bissinger
    inspired blow job.

  • samg

    Turns out Rendell is the biggest wuss of all. I don’t see much more than a word in this excerpt blaming the people who deserve blame — the Republican Party — for the terrible state of the country, especially the economy. Even in his discussion of the man he calls the most powerful in the country, Grover Norquist, Rendell hardly makes it clear that Norquist is a Republican. He blames Congress for the gridlock that’s prevented a proper economic recovery. That’s crap. It’s the Republicans in Congress who’ve prevented Obama from making things better, they’re downright treasonous and unAmerican. But he doesn’t hardly blame the Republicans more than the Democrats (at least in this excerpt). Rendell is full of it. He’s afraid to speak the truth. He is, in other words, a wuss of wusses.

  • Pat C

    Well, why doesnt Eddie do us a favor and move to a more masquline nation.
    The worse thing someone can do is give him a platform to sell books.
    Maybe if Sir Eddie stood up for the City when he was Mayor, it wouldnt be in such bad shape as it is now. He caved in to the unions like an elephant stepping on a house of cards.
    So Eddie, you my friend are the leader of this fine nation of wussies.

  • Iris Ann Eddy

    Dear Ed Rendell:
    When you supported Hillary Clinton for Pres, I thought you were a good man but now I am changing my mind because you have lost yours. Your thought patterns aren’t matching the ones in 2008. What happened to you? Too much Obama cool aide? You need to support Coal, oil drilling, keystone, on & off shore drilling including Alaska.
    Annie

  • http://www.loisburak.com Lois

    I was always frustrated during my many years in business (in a popular area in NE Philadelphia) when the city would shut down over a little snow, seemed to get worse with every year. This didnt help a declining economy. Technology allowed Penndot the advantage of being prepared, yet there were always excuses wy roads were not cleared. I guess it was easier & cheaper to shut down an entire city. (Mayor NUTTER) BUT I dont think we can trust “Philadelphia football fans to “use their own judgment about whether going to the game in the snow was worth the risk they might encounter” > LOL this is I was always frustrated during my many years in business (in a popular area in NE Philadelphia) when the city would shut down over a little snow, seemed to get worse with every year. This didnt help a declining economy. Technology allowed Penndot the advantage of being prepared, yet there were always excuses wy roads were not cleared. I guess it was easier & cheaper to shut down an entire city. (Mayor NUTTER) BUT I dont think we can trust “Philadelphia football fans to “use their own judgment about whether going to the game in the snow was worth the risk they might encounter” > LOL they arent known for making the best decisions.