WHO'S IN CONTROL? by Richard Darman


Polar Politics and the Sensible Center
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 A Reagan-Bush insider's sorrowful look at the current government stalemate in Washington--and the opportunities he and his GOP colleagues missed while in office to dent the troublingly persistent budget deficit. Darman was a James Baker protÇgÇ who served as assistant to the president, assistant secretary of the Treasury, and in the Bush years, director of the Office of Management and Budget. Yet this tough pro admits to being politically gun-shy after years of enduring calls for his scalp (from Nancy Reagan for overpreparing her husband for his first debate with Walter Mondale, and from the far right for his ``pragmatism''). His tributes to the personal decency of Reagan and Bush have the ring of sincerity. Yet Darman notes that, for all of the Gipper's conservative rhetoric, he only slowed, not reversed, government growth, and that, when forced, he selected policies designed to appeal to the broad electorate instead of his right-wing true believers. Moreover, Darman notes ruefully his own failures of governance, both as a David Stockman ally in the abortive attempt to narrow the deficit after the budget-straining tax cuts of 1981 and when he was unable to get traction on the problem in the protracted 1990 budget negotiations without violating Bush's ill-advised ``read my lips'' pledge not to raise taxes. He sees the current political landscape as a scorched terrain generated by the wily Clinton and by Gingrich (who, he says, trashed the 1990 budget agreement to further his own presidential ambitions). Although Darman claims to prefer substance to symbolism, he could have acknowledged the role that he and other political pros played in producing the current polarized environment by feeding candidates hotly rhetorical sound bites. Reading at times like an appeal to the GOP not to forsake the center, this account offers little on how to handle the political consultants who have done so much to marginalize centrists of both parties.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-81123-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996