book review: what color is a conservative?

This is a book by former Congressman JC Watts, Jr. Wow, this book was difficult to get through. I think that is important to read both progressive and conservative points of view. This book, unfortunately, is more of a self-serving vehicle than anything else.

I had the opportunity to hear Congressman Watts in Tyler, Texas in 2004. I had heard that he was a dynamic speaker.  I’d heard of him since I was in college. We were both in college at approximately the same time. He was playing for Oklahoma University and was their star quarterback. I was a struggling premed student at Emory University. I had seen him play on television many times. So, I was interested to hear what insights he would have. Unfortunately, he stood up and gave a canned Republican, neoconservative lecture. Parts of his lecture had already been used by Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Bush and Dick Cheney. There was nothing new. There was nothing insightful. As a whole, it was very disappointing.

So, I decided to go buy his book. The first hundred or so pages really have nothing to do with why he became a conservative. Instead, they tell us a little bit about how he grew up. In spite of having two parents at home, who taught him the difference between right and wrong, Mr. Watts fathers 2 children, out of wedlock during his senior year in high school. Of course, each child has a different mother. He does berate himself for several pages but the bottom line, to use his own words, he’d been “heedless and irresponsible.” He did marry the mother of one of the children. The other child was raised by his aunt and uncle.

Mr. Watts uses a combination of bad analogies, non sequitur’s and illogical conclusions to make most of his points. He argues against welfare because it failed “miserably” then cites the stat of 450% increase in the number of out of wedlock births. This is the same man who fathered two children out of wedlock but was not on welfare. He also states “that my faith is an integral part of who I am” but as an adult male in his 30s he punches out a guy at the YMCA for hassling someone else. Violence? I’m not seeing the morality here.

The most interesting section of the book, in my opinion, has to do with why he now opposes unions.  Mr. Watts was not a great quarterback in Oklahoma. He was a great running quarterback. The NFL was not that interested in him. Therefore, he was forced to look at the Canadian Football League. His agent negotiates a contract. Mr. Watts begins to play and begins to get paid in Canadian dollars. He is surprised by this (in spite of the fact that he’s playing football in Canada). He talks to the team about some mistake. Then, when he gets nowhere with the team, he goes to the player’s Association. They state that there is nothing that they can do for him. This is what outrages Congressman Watts. Why? He talks about individual responsibility in this book but yet in his own example he did no background work on contracts in Canada. He did not ask any lawyers to oversee the contract. He did not talk to any players. Basically, the team and his agent took advantage of his naïveté and he blames the Players Association for this.

Congressman Watts’s book is an interesting read. It is interesting to find out how logic gets twisted in order to justify one’s actions. Read it at your own risk.