PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE by John Harwood

PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE

Profiles in Backroom Power

KIRKUS REVIEW

There are plenty of centrists in America, but to judge by Wall Street Journal stalwarts Harwood and Seib, there are very few in Washington.

These profiles of 16 of the capital city’s fixers, fundraisers, spin doctors and assorted movers and shakers reveal that they agree on little except that they disagree. Americans have always known political divisions, the authors aver, but “today the divisions have taken on a new character. Power is so divided between the two parties that, in a very real sense, nobody has enough control either to paper over differences or to roll past them. Nobody is in charge.” Moreover, Republicans and Democrats no longer hang out in the same bars and restaurants, as they once did. Indeed, many, such as Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, no longer hang out in Washington, preferring, in essence, to commute from their districts rather than become dreaded inside-the-Beltway insiders. The furor over the Dubai Ports World affair, whereby a foreign-owned (and Arabic-speaking) company would be in charge of several American seaports, is just one of the partisan cases in point. There was so much shouting involved that few sat down to discuss if there was any merit to awarding the contract to a company that, after all, managed ports all over the world. Some lament the death of collegiality; some true believers applaud it. But the real movers and shakers, this book makes plain without quite saying so, are a tribe unto themselves. Ken Mehlman, one-time Republican Party chairman, is the law partner of one-time Democratic Party chairman Robert Strauss, and he is given to wondering why the two contingents have yet to really make common cause against the “Islamic fascists…the most anti-Semitic, sexist, homophobic, religiously intolerant force in the world.”

The culture may change soon. It may not. Policy wonks will enjoy this solid, well-reported portrait of life in the District, while insiders will look for their names in the index.

Pub Date: May 20th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6554-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2008




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