REVIEW: Livingston Memoir A Candid Account

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In the genre of political memoirs, readers are often given glowing accounts that favor personal successes over harsh realities, which is unfortunate in an written record that could one day be considered historic text. The exact opposite of this literary norm can be found in The Windmill Chaser: Triumphs and Less in American Politics, the forthcoming book from former Congressman Bob Livingston.

The review copy provided to LaPolitics was remarkably candid. Livingston provides unvarnished recollections of his life in Congress, which spanned 22 years. The reader is brought inside the corridors and cloakrooms of the U.S. Capitol for an unforgettable story about Louisiana politics, ambitions dashed and the true meaning of public service.

Livingston’s candor even extends to the extramarital affair and subsequent scandal that ended his congressional career before he could be formally sworn-in as speaker of the House. Several chapters are dedicated to a deeply personal, day-by-day breakdown of that week in December 1998 when the story broke and Livingston’s life changed forever. It is a revealing portrait of a lawmaker who came under siege and attempted to fight back before accepting the inevitable and resigning from elected office.

In a few of the book’s earlier moments, Livingston offers the reader an eyewitness account of the birth of the modern Louisiana Republican Party — back when simply meeting an actual Republican in the Bayou State could be categorized as remarkable.

The former congressman’s memoir holds little back, including Livingston’s true feelings about former Gov. Dave Treen. Despite what seemed like a close relationship, Livingston writes that he became frustrated with Treen not long after he became governor, ultimately rating Treen’s administration as a “disappointment.”

But most of the action in the book takes place behind the curtains of Congress. There are White House negotiations, backroom dealings and parliamentary maneuvers — all written about in great detail. As one of the top lieutenants under former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Livingston gained an insider’s understanding of the “Contract With America” and the GOP’s battles with former President Bill Clinton.

The Windmill Chaser is peppered with humorous anecdotes from Livingston’s life in politics. During the 1987 race for governor, Livingston made a campaign swing through Acadiana and found himself challenging Congressman Billy Tauzin, a fellow gubernatorial candidate, to a crawfish eating contest. Determined to beat the Chackbay policymaker on his home turf, Livingston went all-in, shoving the entire mudbug — head, tail and shell — in his mouth. While he admits it wasn’t the most “comfortable” way to eat a crawfish, he takes pride in noting that he beat Tauzin nonetheless.

Chocked full of funny stories, no-holds barred opinions and candid recollections, Livingston’s book is a must-read for politicos, history fans and admirers of characters that can only be found in Louisiana. The Windmill Chaser: Triumphs and Less in American Politics is being published by the University of Louisiana Press. It’s set to go on sale Sept. 11.

This story was originally published for Weekly subscribers on July 19, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by subscribing today!

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