Whitmer Talks Tequila, Pearl Jam and Debates in New Book

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

President Biden, the party’s 81-year-old presumptive nominee for president, dialed into MSNBC on Monday morning to bray about the whippersnappers snapping at his stiffened heels. “Run against me,” he said, rather indignantly. “Go ahead. Announce for president. Challenge me at the convention.”

Who would dare! “I don’t even like playing in hypotheticals,” Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, 56, swore last week. “There’s no point engaging in these hypotheticals,” echoed an aide to the 59-year-old governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker.

It was Gretchen Whitmer’s turn on Tuesday. “I’m not going to entertain any conversation along that line,” 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’s got 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 on Tuesday that contains just the sort of political pablum sure to keep her name circulating in “any conversation along that line.”

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

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

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

Unlike Mr. Biden, Ms. Whitmer is, in her telling, twinkle-toed on a debate stage. In a chapter called “Happy Warrior,” she writes about going up against her Republican opponent for governor in 2018, knocking him off balance by being “loose and funny,” and feeling that she “won that debate before it even started.”

Unlike Mr. Biden, Ms. Whitmer’s cultural touchstones are not those of the Silent Generation. She cites 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 while tailgating that she puked on her high school principal and got suspended from school for three days. After being parodied by the actor Cecily Strong on “Saturday Night Live,” Ms. Whitmer sent Ms. Strong cases of Michigan beer. And in particularly tough moments, she is grateful for “tequila and a good cry.”

Unlike Mr. Biden, Ms. Whitmer is itching for a good scrap. She writes that she deals with Republicans by “gritting your teeth and putting on a smile when you really feel like punching a throat.” (She also makes a reference to getting into “the Octagon,” the ring in which Ultimate Fighting Championship matches take place.)

Unlike Mr. Biden, Ms. Whitmer’s media game is more sophisticated than calling into “Morning Joe” under threat of duress. She recounts the various times she has manufactured viral moments on the internet, writing 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 swipes at Mr. Newsom in her book. She writes about 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 was dining at a Michelin three-star restaurant and I was in a dive bar.”

As she writes elsewhere in her book: “We governors are a competitive group.”

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