HOUSE RULES by Robert Cwiklik


A Freshman Congressman's Initiation to the Backslapping, Backpedaling, and Backstabbing Ways of Washington
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 Bismarck once said that the public should never see how sausages or laws are made. In an entertaining but troubling look at neophyte Nebraska Democrat Peter Hoagland's first term in the US House of Representatives, Cwiklik, a former editor of the Ottoway News Service, shows why. Cwiklik portrays Congress less as a deliberative body than as a chaotic political commodity exchange in which expediency and favor-trading determine the course of legislation. For reasons of political survival, Hoagland (depicted here as a somewhat pragmatic version of Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) is compelled to placate powerful lobbying groups he despises, express opinions with which he disagrees, and vote for legislation to which he privately objects. Hoagland's principal legislative activity was as a member of the Banking Committee, where he was instrumental in drafting legislation enacted to bail out failed S&Ls. Cwiklik portrays this legislation as an unnecessarily costly pastiche of compromise that primarily served the local interests of the districts of the members who created it. The author also shows that, above all, congressmen are constantly concerned with perpetuating their tenure in office, and spend an inordinate amount of time building ``war chests,'' creating favorable publicity, and establishing powerful political alliances. Cwiklik does not preach, but quietly describes the many absurdities of a congressman's life in a tongue-in-cheek tone that underscores the irrationality of congressional decision-making. In his diverting manner, Cwiklik strips away the mythology of American democracy to paint an amusing but disturbing picture of what really goes on atop Capitol Hill.

Pub Date: Jan. 13th, 1992
ISBN: 0-394-58231-4
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1991


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