Review: The Ambition and the Power–The Fall of Jim Wright : A True Story of Washington

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John M. Barry

5 Stars Classic Detailed Study of Both Corruption and Abusive Power, September 18, 2008

This is the book whose account of what it takes to be a “Member” that so turned my stomach (i.e. the book is phenomenal) I concluded that no sane and honorable person should seek election.

On the one hand, it recounts in excruciating detail the degree to which then Speaker of the House Jim Wright had to be constantly on the go to collect (“raise”) funds for his future campaigns (every two years), while also illuminating the pathologies of House leadership processes.

On the other hand, it recounts in equal detail the deliberate and malicious manner in which future Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich set about to destroy Jim Wright–his reputation, his position, his office, his personna.

I am not sure which turned my stomach more–the two together are quite depressing.

I have since learned that the Democrats are much more practiced at electoral fraud and other connivances, and that the Republicans are now learning to match the Democrats and “level the playing field.” We need to take back the power, get the money out of politics, eradicate the rule by secrecy and information asymmetries between elites and the voters, and get our Republic back.

From a Constitutional point of view, this book also charts how Newt Gingrich destroyed Article 1 of the Constitution, and turned all Members into “foot soldiers” for the party — they vote the party line as bought by billionaires, or they get no nice offices, staff numbers, etcetera. He destroyed what was left of the bi-partisan balance of power aspect of the US Constitution.

This is a SUPERB reading for any university or college class studying the real world of politics as it is still practiced today on the Hill.

More recent books, also recommended:
Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders
The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Institutions of American Democracy)
Tribes on the Hill: The United States Congress–Rituals and Realities, Revised Edition

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Jul 3

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