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I wanted to get to a few more reader comments before I sign off.

  • Reader KKC wrote:

Curious how everyone now has stories about his corruption, I was very involved politically with the Duke, had I even the inkling of what he was doing I would have acted on it. As a republican I felt especially violated by this crook. And that is all he is to me now a petty criminal who got almost what he deserved.

I think one of the most interesting things about the Cunningham story is how many people who thought they knew him were surprised by his actions. I spoke with many people who knew him well — Navy comrades, fellow members of Congress, even staffers — who all were shocked when he stood before the cameras and tearfully announced that he was pleading guilty. His apparent lack of guilt about his actions speaks, I think, to his extraordinary capacity for self-delusion. I’m not sure he was even clear on what the truth was at the end. Still, there was a small handful of people who knew or should have known what was going on. Cunningham’s wife, Nancy, comes to mind. So does Cunningham’s former chief of staff, Trey Hardin.

  • Book Buyer pointed out that there is more than one book about Cunningham:

I’m not a busy person these days but I’m not going to read both books — why should I read yours instead of the one written by the U-T writers who did such a good job reporting on the issue?

Let me say first that I have nothing but good things to say about Marcus Stern, the U-T editor who broke the story about Cunningham’s home sale that set the whole federal investigation into motion. Marcus is one of the most gracious people I’ve had the pleasure to come across and he deserves the Pulitzer and whatever other accolades come his way. Marcus clearly has a story that only he can tell about how he broke the Cunningham story.

What I tried to do is write for a general reader like my wife, who has only a passing interest in politics and Cunningham himself. I wanted her and others understand how Cunningham went from being a legendary pilot and war hero to prison, and by doing so, reveal American politics as it is today. To help readers along, I wrote what I see as a non-fiction story that reads like fiction. That’s because Randy Cunningham and his cronies are such colorful individuals that they would seem like overblown caricatures if they were in a novel. I think you’ll find Feasting on the Spoils is worth your while.

Thanks for all your comments. It’s been a real pleasure for me to be a guest blogger here. voiceofsandiego.org is doing great work in San Diego, where an independent forum like this is most welcome.

Update: I will be speaking Tuesday, July 24 at Borders in Mission Valley. The event is being taped and will air later on C-SPAN.

SETH HETTENA

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