A disquieting examination of the post-Watergate political culture's obsession with personal scandal and of the paralyzing effect of this tendency on government. Garment, a former Wall Street Journal columnist, views the media, zealous investigative groups, and political opposition groups as operating together as a ``scandal machine'' that deters capable citizens from serving in government, creates cynicism and a ``culture of mistrust,'' and consumes considerable expense and energy. While some misconduct is truly reprehensible, she argues, much becomes the subject of scandal only because of increased exposure, enhanced ethical standards, and changed rules. Garment analyzes several of the major scandals of the post-Watergate era: Abscam, the Iran-contra investigations, the fall of House Speaker Jim Wright, and the ``Keating Five'' hearings. While these scandals largely had substance, Garment argues persuasively that the scandal culture has made it ``easy to make a highly visible scandal out of even the most grotesque charges.'' She proposes that Americans attempt to distinguish between important and trivial scandals, and that they not regard behavior as scandalous when it ``is not really an abuse of the public trust.'' An intelligent and balanced call to put political scandal into perspective.