Ruben Gallego’s path to the House of Representatives has been an unusual one. He grew up working class on the South Side of Chicago. He got into Harvard. He got kicked out of Harvard. In 2000, he joined the Marine Corps. Peacetime soon enough became wartime, and he got shipped off to Iraq.
His new book, They Called Us “Lucky”: The Life and Afterlife of the Iraq War’s Hardest Hit Unit, is a recounting of his often traumatic experiences there. His Marine battalion, once known as “Lucky Lima,” became the single unluckiest in the Iraq War: His 185-strong battalion suffered 48 casualties. It was, according to the book’s promotional material, “the most casualties of any Marine unit since the Beirut bombing in 1983, when 220 Marines died.” When he shipped back stateside, he reenrolled in Harvard, got his degree, and moved to New Mexico at first and then to Arizona, where he got into politics initially as an organizer and a strategist and then, in 2014, as a successful candidate for Congress, where he represents south Phoenix and environs.
In this episode of Tomaskycast, Gallego talks with editor Michael Tomasky about those experiences and about writing the book, which he says was a painful process for him. He then discusses the passage of Build Back Better and the parts of it he’s most enthusiastic about; how he managed to duck every minute of Kevin McCarthy’s eight-plus-hour speech; how he thinks his Democratic colleagues in purple districts can sell BBB; and finally, the mystery of Senator Kyrsten Sinema and whether he’s considering challenging her in the 2024 Democratic primary.