WRITING A BOOK BRINGS OUT THE RADICAL in Bill Bradley—at least in terms of career moves. "Life on the Run made me realize that it was time to leave basketball," he says. "This book helped me make the same decision about the Senate. I'm uncomfortable being comfortable in a job. I have always preferred moving to sitting still."
Bradley's decision wasn't exactly trailblazing. Twelve other senators have chosen to retire in the last year. "Politics has gotten mean-spirited," he says. "We shout now; we don't listen. Yet the ability to listen is critical to the legislative process, to governing well."
Although many pundits speculate that Bradley's exit frees him for a full-court press on the Presidency, he makes a strong case for remaining a spectator. "It's become a race to the bottom, not to the top," Bradley contends. "Newspaper editors and television executives have to decide not to print or air just what sells but rather to commit to a fairer hearing of the issues. It's just part of good citizenship, a larger responsibility to the country."
Despite the media muggings and gridlock, Bradley has worked some legislative magic. "Tax reform, the Superfund and the Russian high school exchange program have meant an awful lot to me," he says. The defeat of catastrophic health insurance—"a critical net for seniors"—remains a regret.
Still, after 17 years of political life on the run, Bradley seems eager for domestic tranquillity with wife Ernestine—a professor of German and literature at Montclair State University in New Jersey—and daughter Theresa Anne, who is college-bound next fall.
"For 17 years, Ernestine and I have been telling each other to wave as our Metroliners passed each other," says Bradley. Come November, the couple will be back on the same track.