- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

By Christine O’Donnell
St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 358 pages

There’s a wonderful scene from the first episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” between Mary and Lou Grant (Ed Asner), her short-tempered boss, teetering on the edge of rage.

“You know what?” Grant asks. “You’ve got spunk.”

“Well, yes …” says Mary, trying to smile that wonderful smile.

“I hate spunk,” Grant snaps.

That seems much the case with Christine O’Donnell. She’s got spunk. It was spunk that drove her to take on the GOP establishment in 2010 in her run for Joseph R. Biden’s Senate seat. (She had run against Mr. Biden as the Republican candidate in 2008.) It was spunk that made her a Tea Party favorite. And it was spunk that compelled her to write this book, an honest and at times touching account of her upbringing and education, her life at work and in politics and her hopes for the future, all presented in fast and upbeat prose, essentially bright and optimistic even when recounting moments of setbacks and stress.

There are those who love that spunk, those who hate it and those, among them smirking television talk-show hosts, who use it to score easy points in the ratings chase. Of the frequently snide and supercilious Bill Maher, for instance, who during the campaign first fired up the inane witchcraft controversy, she writes: “I was stunned. More than that I was hurt, because it felt like a betrayal … I’d thought we were friends.”

Most recently, there was her abrupt departure from CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” brought on by questions she correctly labeled as constituting “borderline sexual harassment.” No surprise there. As the media’s treatment of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann amply demonstrates, conservative women in politics are fair game for condescending sexist liberals.

But again, it took spunk to stand up and walk off that set.

It also took spunk to weather the attacks from the media and both major parties during her run for the Senate. After winning the 2010 primary against nine-term congressman and former Gov. Mike Castle, the unanimous choice of the GOP establishment, she found that neither Mr. Castle nor the leaders of her party and many national Republican grandees would support her in the general-election campaign.

As Jeffrey Lord points out in a recent article in the American Spectator, “Ms. O’Donnell was derided not only by elitist Delaware Democrats but Ruling Class elites of both the Delaware Republican Party and, amazingly in a movement that celebrates such anti-liberal Establishment stars from Buckley to Reagan to Fox and talk radio, some conservatives.”

After the general election, Ms. O’Donnell appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor” to discuss those attacks: “They just wanted to attack me rather than look at where I stand on the issues. … It could be [I was] a strong woman who had the audacity to challenge the system, and I busted up the backroom deal. I think there were a lot of bruised egos … I think at least for the party in Delaware, the Republican leadership … would rather control the way they lose than lose control of their party.”

It was just this sort of behavior by both established parties that brought the Tea Party movement into existence. In the political battles of 2010, it demonstrated its power as a new and powerful political force. And there’s little doubt today that it will play an increasingly powerful role in elections to come.

The Tea Party movement shows no sign of fading away. Nor, as this book demonstrates, does Christine O’Donnell. She’s smart and articulate; she’s solid on the issues; she has a coherent set of beliefs and principles; and she enjoys the support of a strong and enthusiastic constituency.

“Make no mistake,” she writes, “there are more of us than there are of [the establishment liberals] … They call us wacky. They call us wingnuts. We call us ‘We the People.’ “

Now that’s spunk.

John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley, 2007).

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