Whitmer Discusses Tequila, Pearl Jam, and Debates in New Book

These are tough times to be an ambitious and (relatively) young star within the Democratic Party.

President Biden, the party’s 81-year-old presumptive presidential nominee, called into MSNBC on Monday morning to rail about the snotty-nosed thugs snapping at his stiff heels. “Go ahead,” he said, sounding rather indignant. “Go ahead. Announce yourself for president. Challenge me at the convention.”

Who would dare! “I don’t even like to play hypotheticals,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom, 56, cursed last week. “There’s no point in getting into these hypotheticals,” echoed an aide to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, 59.

On Tuesday, it was Gretchen Whitmer’s turn. “I’m not going to have any conversations along those lines,” Ms. Whitmer, the 52-year-old governor of Michigan, said in an interview with USA Today. “The president is in this race, he is running, and he has my unequivocal support.”

What unfortunate timing, then, for her to publish “True Gretch: What I’ve Learned About Life, Leadership, and Everything in Between,” a slim book out Tuesday that contains just the kind of political fluff that will keep her name floating around in “any conversation along those lines.”

The last page of her book consists of a block quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “The Man in the Arena,” followed by this chestnut: “Though these words were written over a hundred years ago, they are still true today—except for two things. The ‘man’ may be a woman. And she may just be wearing fuchsia.” (Can you guess what the governor’s favorite color is?)

“True Gretch” reads like Ms. Whitmer’s collective rebuttal of the outdated leadership that has her party in a stranglehold. The book is filled with contrasts that she might not have intended months ago but that are stark today.

Credit…Cj Benninger/Simon & Schuster, via Associated Press

Unlike Mr. Biden, Ms. Whitmer, by her own admission, has her toes twinkling on a debate stage. In a chapter called “Happy Warrior,” she writes about battling her Republican opponent for governor in 2018, throwing him off balance by being “loose and funny,” and about feeling like she “won that debate before it even started.”

Unlike Mr. Biden, Ms. Whitmer’s cultural touchstones are not those of the Silent Generation. She names Gen X jams by Alanis Morissette, Eminem and Pearl Jam in a list of her favorite songs.

Unlike Mr. Biden, Ms. Whitmer enjoys a drink. As a teenager, she got so drunk tailgating that she threw up on her principal and was suspended from school for three days. After being parodied by the actress Cecily Strong on “Saturday Night Live,” Ms. Whitmer sent Ms. Strong cases of beer from Michigan. And in particularly tough moments, she’s grateful for “tequila and a good cry.”

Unlike Mr. Biden, Ms. Whitmer is eager to pick a good fight. She writes that she deals with Republicans by “gritting your teeth and putting on a smile when you really feel like kicking their ass.” (She also refers to entering “the Octagon,” the ring where Ultimate Fighting Championship matches take place.)

Unlike Mr. Biden, Ms. Whitmer’s media game is more sophisticated than calling “Morning Joe” under threat of coercion. She recounts the various times she has created viral moments on the internet and writes that “it is objectively true (in my subjective opinion) that I have the most creative social media” of any governor.

Speaking of those other governors, Ms. Whitmer takes a swipe at Mr. Newsom in her book, recounting the time in 2021 when she went out drinking with a group of friends and was photographed violating the social distancing rules she herself had set for Michigan.

“I wasn’t the only politician to make this mistake, of course. Gavin Newsom had a meal at the French Laundry during the pandemic,” she reminds the reader. “So Gavin and I had that in common — even though he dined at a three-Michelin-star restaurant and I at a dive bar.”

As she writes elsewhere in her book, “We governors are a competitive bunch.”

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