Washington insider and accomplished journalist Drew (The Corruption of American Politics, 1999, etc.) provides a fly-on-the-wall portrait of the congressional maverick and his struggle to reform campaign-finance laws.
To judge by this account, Arizona senator John McCain—war hero, patrician, and thorn in the sitting president’s side—has a long memory for slights, favors, and betrayals, a memory fully engaged in the business of schmoozing, cajoling, and arm-twisting his way to a major overhaul of how dollars come into politicians’ hands. McCain, Drew reports, is an outspoken foe of pork-barrel spending, and as she follows him from room to room in the Capitol, she finds him battling such things as an Alabama senator’s request for $2 million to repair a Birmingham-area statue of the Greek god Vulcan and “a particularly egregious boondoggle by which the Air Force was to lease a hundred new Boeing jets—which it hadn’t requested—for ten years, paying ninety percent of their cost, and then give them back to Boeing with at least twenty more years of usefulness remaining.” At the top of McCain’s agenda throughout is a series of bills meant to curtail the corporate soft money that keeps congressmen in power, bills mostly opposed by his fellow Republicans. Drew ably captures McCain in action as he works the floor and offers vivid details on the formidable array of enemies he has attracted as he presses his cause, not least of them George Bush, who in the South Carolina primary mounted what one local politician described as “the dirtiest, nastiest campaign I’ve ever seen” while battling McCain for the Republican presidential nomination. Drew clearly approves of McCain, though never so much as to allow partisanship to get in the way of her usual careful reporting.
A useful exposé of how things get done—and buried—in Washington.