Books about Joe Biden’s presidency haven’t exactly sold like hotcakes, but if you’re looking for something new to read, there’s a great Gina Raimondo tale in “The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden’s White House and the Struggle for America’s Future, " which came out this week.
The book, written by Franklin Foer, offers insight into Biden’s first two years in the White House, focusing largely on the president’s efforts to reboot the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic and the US response to the war in Ukraine.
There’s also a couple of fascinating nuggets on Raimondo, the former Rhode Island governor who is now secretary of commerce.
Raimondo has built a tight relationship with US Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the moderate Democrat who, depending on your political views, has derailed or narrowed significant parts of Biden’s domestic economic agenda in recent years.
Foer writes that Manchin considers Raimondo a “kindred spirit,” in large part because her “political frame of reference wasn’t San Francisco or Brooklyn.” The book points out that Raimondo once called Biden’s then-chief of staff Ron Klain to complain about the administration moving too far to the left, quoting her as saying, “You know, they didn’t elect Elizabeth Warren president.”
Manchin and Klain butted heads during the first two years of the Biden administration, but Foer explains that Raimondo brokered peace between the two when she cooked them eggplant parm and pork for dinner (and cannoli for dessert).
There’s even a cameo from Raimondo’s son, Tommy, who made Manchin burst into laughter when the 15-year-old offered the senator a glass of his favorite scotch.
Raimondo doesn’t have a large presence in the rest of the book, but another Rhode Islander, Mike Donilon, has his name scattered across several chapters. Donilon is a longtime top advisor to Biden who Foer describes as “the closest thing the president has to an alter ego.”
There is one other very random Rhode Island-related anecdote in the book, which dates back to when Biden was vice president. During an AFL-CIO executive committee meeting in 2010, Foer writes, Randi Weingarten, the powerful American Federation of Teachers president, was complaining about the Obama administration’s support for the mass firing of teachers in Central Falls.
As Weingarten continued to rail about the decision, Biden walked over to her and said, “I hear you. Give me time, and I’ll work this out.”
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via email Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.