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Wednesday, September 21,2011

Looking back at a state on the verge of disaster

Jennifer Granholm and husband Dan Mulhern share their thoughts on Michigan in 'A Governor's Story'

by Bill Castanier

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and her
husband, Dan Mulhern, are on a mission to warn the rest of the country
about Michigan’s economic experiences and how to escape disaster.


“Everything that is hitting the country
hit Michigan first,” Granholm said in an interview, referring to the
economic maelstrom she faced during her two terms as Michigan’s
governor.


“Our problems weren’t cyclical, they were structural,” she said. “Our experiences are prophetic.”


The couple is on the road promoting
their new book, “A Governor’s Story: A Fight for Jobs and America’s
Economic Future.” The book is on sale this week, and Granholm and
Mulhern will make their first public appearance in Michigan at 7:30
p.m. Tuesday at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor. According to their
publicist, Liz Boyd (the governor’s former press secretary), they are
attempting to schedule a Lansing area event.


A lesson in economics: It’s $10 for admission to the Ann Arbor event, but for $25, you get a ticket for admission and the book.


Before then, if you pick up a newspaper,
listen to the radio or watch TV, it’s likely you will catch Granholm,
who has an enviable schedule of media events, including “The Daily
Show,” “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” “Meet the Press” and “Countdown
with Keith Olbermann.” (You can listen to City Pulse columnist’s Kyle
Melinn’s interview with the couple on City Pulse On the Air, heard at 7
p.m. tonight on 88.9 FM, The Impact.)


The new book is hard to categorize since
it’s not a traditional political memoir or a biography. Although it’s
written in the first person, the first couple underscore that it’s
written jointly. Granholm and Mulhern share equal billing on the dust
jacket, which shows Granholm in a power pose you’d likely find on the
cover of Fortune magazine.


Granholm calls the book a “hybrid” since
it only covers a short time (roughly from December 2008 to June 2009)
when she was thrown into national spotlight as the U.S. auto industry
was taken to the brink of bankruptcy.


Wrapped around this period is enough
verbiage to give you a sense of this unusual couple — unusual in the
sense that Mulhern became the primary parent for the couple’s three
children while Granholm would be completely engulfed in what she calls
“a global economic hurricane,” which she says is “coming to a community
near you.”


Very early in the book you see the
frustration that confronted Granholm. At the bottom of a schematic
timeline is the simple line: “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”


No, it wasn’t. In their writing, they
make it clear that, at first, Mulhern was the one with the ambition and
desire to seek elected office; when his spouse becomes the first woman
elected as governor of Michigan that dream ends. He throws himself into
the role of "uberparent," who provides emotional support for his spouse.


Granholm, on the other hand, is tossed
into a sea of trouble with no lifeboat. She calls it “playing defense”
while she wanted to play offense. 


She writes: “Life in the governor’s
chair quickly turned out to be less about enacting my agenda and more
about managing a cascading series of crises.”


The book details the massive
unemployment and plant closures and the governor’s attempts to turn the
economy around using traditional means like tax cuts, reducing the size
of government and cutting regulation. They make it clear in the book
that none of that worked and that states alone cannot change the impact
of global competition.


The book makes the case that the actions
were futile until President Obama was elected and began making
strategic investments in industry, such as new energy sources. The
success of those programs is detailed in a chapter titled “Greenshoots.”


That’s the message the writers hope to
emphasize to the rest of the nation; they write about it in detail in
the chapter “Cracking the Code,” the title of which refers to eight
strategies Granholm proposes that would “create advanced manufacturing
jobs” and change the way America does business in the global economy.


Although the book is somewhat chatty at
times, it really takes off when Granholm is embroiled in rescuing the
U.S auto industry. The behind-the-scenes look paints a dramatic picture
of the tense moments leading up to actions that pulled the auto
industry — and Michigan — back from the brink. 


Granholm and Mulhern do a good job in
recreating the drama of that time, in which a single phone call may
have determined the fate of Michigan.


Granholm describes the moment in her interview as “such a scary time for all of us. So many people were hanging by threads.”


Interspersed throughout the book are
depictions of the personal toll the pressures of the job have taken on
Granholm and Mulhern.


“We worked really hard to be candid about our personal reinvention,” Mulhern said.


One scene has Granholm running along a
forest path on Mackinac Island while she reflects on the impact that
public life has had on her personal relationships.


“There was no doubt in my mind that the
person most challenged by my 10 years in public life was Dan," she
writes. “(T)here was a slow burning resentment in him: My preoccupation
with all things Michigan had made him feel that he’d given up both the
wife and the life he expected.”


She also reflects on how her pro-choice
stand had left him “persona non grata with a Catholic bureaucracy” and
describes being “ambivalent about attending church” after their bishop
tells her she “was not worthy to receive communion.”


She writes how Mulhern accepted his role
and flourished, while she had an epiphany that “I would not be able to
carry Michigan on my back to the victory circle.  … I had to be okay with that. And I was.”


The book, written so soon after her term
ended, presents a raw look at a time when Michigan’s economic future
was on the precipice and provides what is likely to be a more realistic
appraisal than one written 20 years from now.


“I would love to, in a few years, write
another chapter on the intervention (of the federal government),”
Granholm said. “It could be a story with a happy ending.”




Jennifer Granholm and Dan Mulhern


7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27


Michigan Theatre,


603 E. Liberty St.,


Ann Arbor


$10 event; $15 VIP seating; $25 event and a copy of "A Governor’s Story:  Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future"


Tickets available at www.ticketweb.com


(734) 668-8397





























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