It is not only the moral responsibility of every great leader to govern the people with innovation, justice, compassion, and humility — he or she also must write a self-important autobiography that falls shy of compelling.
The trailblazing Selina Meyer serves as your standard torchbearer in this department. The self-obsessed former vice president turned former president turned presidential hopeful appeared in season 6 of Veep on The Tonight Show to promote her book, A Woman First: First Woman, though the host (played by Adam Scott) was more interested in the scandal radiating from Mike’s diaries. If you ever wished that you could crack open that tome and learn about the rest of Selina’s rise to power via the written word, today brings great fortune. In full commitment to the bit, the Veep folks are making Selina Meyer’s A Woman First: First Woman available for your perusement.
Described as “an intimate first-person account of the public and private lives of Selina Meyer, America’s first female president that we know of,” the 100-ish-page book (Abrams Press) unspools the life of the only woman brave enough to start a foundation that aims to eliminate attacked adult illiteracy, AIDS, and childhood obesity. In writing her own book, or at least having a ghostwriter write the book for her, the one-time short-term POTUS (played by the Emmy-winning Julia Louis-Dreyfus) chronicles the history of her family dating back to Mayflower times, explains how she met her financially and morally suspect husband Andrew, and triumphed in a male-driven sphere of politics. For those of you who came here only for some quality Catherine-bashing, there’s a chapter in which Selina authorizes Gary (Tony Hale) to organize a secret DNA test to find out if the First Daughter was actually adopted.
A Woman First is billed as written by Selina, but the book was actually penned by Veep showrunner David Mandel and writer-producer Billy Kimball. It’s another ambitious example of the Veepverse entering the real world. (See: the various campaign websites for Jonah Ryan here or here.) “I love when these things exist in reality,” Mandel tells EW, “and it just seemed that Selina would write that book. And, as far as I’m concerned, she did.”
The goal of this project was to emulate the spirit of these grand memoirs that often leave something — or possibly, everything — to be desired. “These presidential autobiographies, but also these candidate-to-be autobiographies, as a genre unto itself, they’re never that good,” says Mandel. “They’re never as revealing as you want them to be and certainly never quite as well-written as you want to be. And there’s a real art form to that terrible plaintive writing, in the sense of how badly these people want to run for president and they’re trying to tell you what they think you want to know and what you might want to elect. I think Selina’s book lives up to the finest worst candidate autobiographies ever.”
Below, you will find an exclusive excerpt from A Woman First, in which Selina attempts to explain why she has earned the title of “The Education President.” But first, for those who hold fast to the constitutionally provided freedom to not read, you will be heartened to know that A Woman First will be available as an audiobook on April 23. Right here, EW affords you the opportunity to listen to Louis-Dreyfus, er, Selina read an excerpt from the book, with Gary popping in with additional commentary.
In this exclusive three-minute preview, Selina describes a sexist smear attack that an opponent waged against her during her first campaign, in which “he told people that contrary to what was asserted in my official biography, instead of being on the Law Review at Yale Law School, I had in fact not been on the Law Review,” and worse yet, “he convinced The Baltimore Sun to run an article about my DIUs and featuring a very unflattering mugshot.” As Selina continues, she realizes that she actually does not wish to include any of this unflattering information in her memoir, and informs the ever-present Gary that she wants all of this unsavory information “redacted” from the public record. Hmmm, why does that word seem timely this week? Gary might be eager to serve Selina, but he also might not know exactly what “redacted” means. Take a listen.
It is well-known that I have often been called “The Education President.” Am I ashamed of this? No! Quite the opposite, in fact. I am proud to have been called “The Education President.” Of all the many issues that a president can concern him or herself with, I think a very good case can be made that education is one of the most important. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s try a little exercise: What do you think is the most difficult challenge we face in the world today? Maybe, for you, it’s jobs. Well, you can’t get a good job without an education, now can you? I mean, some good jobs, sure. Working turning a crank in a factory for a few months and then faking an injury that entitles you to both a settlement in a lawsuit and a lifetime of disability payments could be considered a good job, I guess, if you want to get paid to spend your life fishing or watching car racing on television, and you don’t need much education to fake an injury, one would think. And I suppose, in that case, your crooked lawyer would fill out all the forms for you so you wouldn’t really need to know how to read and write or express yourself particularly well.
But that’s an isolated case. An exception that proves the rule, if you will.
Let’s pick a different policy arena in which to prove the importance of education. How about climate change? You can’t do anything about climate change if you don’t have an education. You’d need to be a physicist or maybe a chemist to figure out what to do about that. It’s a huge, interdisciplinary problem with many facets, so biologists and biochemists also have an important role to play. Geologists a bit also maybe. Archaeologists not so much. And the algorithms that predict complex interactions in the upper atmosphere require the input (no pun intended!) of computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians who, like economists, are considered “poor man’s scientists.”
All of these different highly educated people—not just men but also women, too!—have to work together to solve the problem of climate change. Now, to be fair, while these scientists seem to be pretty good at identifying the problem, it’s not as if they’ve been terribly great at coming up with solutions, despite all their education.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best example either. Doctors! Doctors need education. Think about the life of a doctor. Pretty much your entire working life is spent writing. Doctors write hundreds, if not thousands, of prescriptions every day, so there’s simply no way you can be a doctor if you don’t know how to write. I think we all wish doctors could spend a little more time learning how to write clearly so that a prescription for, say, sleeping pills isn’t filled incorrectly by the idiot pharmacist so that you wind up with a strong laxative or something. That happened to someone I know, which resulted in her inventing (but tragically failing to trademark) the expression “sh-t the bed.” Here’s something they don’t teach you in school but is really worth knowing: Take anything a doctor tells you with a giant grain of salt, because I have learned that more often than not they’re just lazy clueless losers like everyone else.
Pharmacists are supposed to be educated, but a lot of the time it doesn’t seem like they are or, if they are, it seems they weren’t educated very well. Don’t take this the wrong way, but a lot of them also look like they learned how to do pharmacy in Korea or the Philippines or someplace like that, and God only knows whether they value education as highly in those countries as we do here in America.
Here’s something you may not know about pharmacists: The arts and sciences of pharmacy are the second most popular thing for inmates to study in prison after—you guessed i—the arts and sciences of locksmithing. Look, I guess anything’s better than giving prisoners even more time to do pull-ups, lift weights, and toss around the medicine ball so that they can become even scarier and more dangerous than they were when they got sent to jail. And as the daughter and ex-wife of men who, due to misunderstandings both on their part but also on the part of law enforcement, very nearly went to jail on a number of occasions, I am a firm believer in second chances and in allowing people to pay their debt to society and get the whole thing over with rather than spend a fortune on legal bills.
All of that said, one kind of education I’m not a huge fan of is teaching prisoners how to pick locks and make drugs. Let me explain my reasoning here. Two of the activities that land people in jail in the first place are burglary and robbery and, if we want to reduce recidivism, I think we should make it harder for criminals to reoffend rather than making it easier by teaching them how to open locks better than they did the last time, when they got caught. The same goes for pharmacy. I mean, on some level, I get it. If we teach prisoners how to make their own drugs or give them better access to drugs by helping them get jobs as pharmacists rather than having to buy them on the street, which can often be a prelude to crime, we might be able to reduce drug crime or, at least, improve the quality of the drug crimes in this country. But I happen to think that it might be best if we tried to keep them away from drugs altogether and leave pharmacy work to Koreans and Phillipinesians. Besides, how do we know that inmates who study pharmaceutical dispensation in prison are going to actually try and get jobs in legitimate pharmacies such as Rite Aid, CVS, or, my personal favorite, Walgreens? If those pharmacies were not as deeply committed to second chances as perhaps they should be, then they might not want to hire former drug criminals to be their pharmacists. That would leave these prison-trained pharmacists with nothing to do except manufacture crystal meth in their bathtubs at home—crystal meth that, by virtue of the taxpayer-subsidized prison education, might be far more potent than their competitors’.
The one area of prison education that I do support wholeheartedly is legal education. It makes simple common sense that the best lawyers—the best criminal lawyers at any rate—would have at least some prison experience. The same goes for judges, though probably not Supreme Court Justices because, as with everything, there is a limit.*
Veep airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.
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