It wasn’t a full bore, heavy-lava flow Mount Rendell eruption on Sixty Minutes last night, but there was enough smoke and ash that the CBS producers made sure to air the moment when our governor just about lost it.
The topic was slots in Pennsylvania, and the third time Leslie Stahl needled Rendell about the state encouraging people to gamble their paychecks away, Rendell turned to the camera and back to Stahl, and barked that he’d already explained that the poor suckers would just be losing their money in Atlantic City or Delaware anyway.
“You don’t listen,” he said, flashing the clenched jaw that tells you he’s about to blow. “You guys don’t get that. You’re simpletons, you’re idiots if you don’t get that.” (You can see the Sixty Minutes piece here.)
Anybody who’s spent time around Rendell recognizes that grimace. When the jaw locks, you start looking for a place to hide. His tantrums aren’t pretty.
But seeing him roar last night after listening to his nation-of-wusses rant about the Eagles game two weeks ago set me thinking about his plans for a career in cable TV punditry.
Dude, is this really what you want?
Is getting into a televised food fight four nights a week and occasionally letting Growling Ed out of his cage any way to end a distinguished career of public service?
I covered city hall for the Daily News when Rendell was mayor, and I once convinced him to let me sit in his office while he made fundraising calls for the Avenue of the Arts.
He was as gifted a private cajoler as he was a public communicator. I think he should pick a local cause – public education would fit nicely – and apply his leadership and fund-raising skills to the public good once again.
But if he stays on the tube, it will be entertaining.
UPDATE: Rendell spoke to Marty Moss-Coane about the Sixty Minutes episode on Radio Times today. He said he lost his temper because he was asked the same question five times, and said he looked away from the camera during his outburst because he was angry at a CBS producer in the room.
“I apologized afterward to Leslie Stahl,” Rendell said, “but I didn’t apologize to her producer who goaded her into it.”
Rendell said his staff advised him against talking to Sixty Minutes because of the show’s confrontational approach. He said if viewers ever saw the raw tape from Sixty Minutes interviews, “lynch mobs” would form to go after CBS.
Rendell also talked about extremist rhetoric in our political debate, what’s ahead for Pennsylvania and other issues. The interview will be available soon on the Radio Times website.