Political Life of Tom Foley Subject of New Book

PULLMAN, Wash. — From reluctant candidate in the 1960s to Speaker of the U.S. House of
Representatives in the 1990s, Thomas S. Foley served in Congress during the terms of seven
presidents and some of the most momentous legislation of the twentieth century. The first
Speaker of the House from the West, Foley was also only the third sitting Speaker to ever lose a
reelection bid. Following that defeat in 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed him Ambassador to
Now, the Washington State University Press has published a highly readable and insightful
look at Foley’s public life and the workings of the “other Washington.” Co-authored by Foley
and his former press aide, Jeffrey Biggs, “Honor in the House: Speaker Tom Foley,” is available
at bookstores throughout the region.
According to the WSU Press, the book is somewhat unusual, since it is neither a traditional
autobiography nor a biography.
“The end product is a hybrid. Most people are used to autobiographies and biographies,”
Biggs said. “This is a bit of both: a third-person political biography of 30 years of Foley’s active
political life.”
Throughout, Foley adds his personal reflection, his wisdom and perspective, Biggs said.
“But then you need another voice answering the question, ‘What was the political wisdom of the
day?’ That’s research. That’s where I came into it. Foley takes the reader inside a room and
together we show what lay behind issues and how they were represented at the time.”
Biggs also discussed the importance of the Foley book, especially in comparison to today’s
“Foley’s political life represents something, lamentably, harder to find in contemporary
politics than it used to be. He hated the continual campaign that doesn’t end with the election.
His idea was that, despite political differences, when you were elected, it was your responsibility
to sit down with those who opposed you and forge compromises. That’s the strength Foley
brought to politics. There has been sharp partisanship in the intervening years. Comity,
consensus and compromise are not words you hear much these days. In Foley’s view, the debate
had to lead somewhere. You have to ultimately come to a decision.”
Foley’s story-telling abilities make “Honor in the House” enjoyable to read. “Foley follows in
the tradition of great political storytellers like Mark Twain. His anecdotes are not just to make
you chuckle but also to make you think,” Biggs said. “Foley is one of the best political anecdote
tellers around today. He’s in a league with former Sen. Al Simpson (R-Wyoming), who was a
great storyteller.”
As for why the book is coming out now, Biggs admitted that in terms of a commercial
venture, the time to write about a politician is when they’re in power. “But the trouble with that is
that the people in those positions just don’t have the time to write. The responsibilities of the
moment take precedence over reflections of the past,” he said.
“Honor in the House” is an indispensable book for those interested in American politics, the
life of one of Washington’s most prominent individuals and the workings of Congress — or those
just interested in a good story, the publishers report.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale said, “‘Honor in the House’ not only provides
insights about one of our nation’s most decent and respected public leaders, it also provides a
very useful guide to the fascinating course of American politics … from the 1960s to the 1990s.”
The 384-page book with photographs, notes, a bibliography and a detailed index, includes a
foreword by former Senate Majority Leader and Ambassador to Japan Mike Mansfield. It is now
available in paperback for $25 or hardback for $35 at bookstores or directly from WSU Press,