Pretty faces and promising careers tend to flash across our local political firmament with the frequency of shooting stars -- and with about as much effect. But for more than two decades, the most consequential elected official in Southern
has been a short, bald, decidedly mustached congressman from
' Westside named
In fact, when the history of postwar America is definitively written, it's possible that the record will show that the three California politicians who had the biggest impact on the largest number of American lives were
, as chief justice;
, as president; and Henry Waxman as representative of the 30th District in the
. Tens of millions of Americans are healthier, breathe cleaner air and live safer lives because of his legislative efforts. Among living lawmakers, his record of legislative achievement can be compared only to Sen. Ted Kennedy's.
On that basis alone, "The Waxman Report: How
Really Works" would merit respectful attention. However, the congressman, now 69, has, along with his collaborator Joshua Green of the Atlantic magazine, produced something unexpected and rather fine. "The Waxman Report" is part compelling memoir, part fascinating, shrewd civics lesson and part bracing statement of practical idealism. It's impossible to put down and a joy to read -- a model, in fact, of lucid exposition. If your plans for the long Independence Day weekend incline toward thoughts on the state of the nation, skip all the patriotic kitsch and read this book.
The timing is fortuitous, because Waxman is more than ever at the center of events, since the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chairs, shares jurisdiction over the energy and healthcare issues key to
's agenda. The Westside Democrat and Rep.
, a longtime friend and
County Democrat who chairs the Education and Labor Committee, and Rep.