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Not Your Average Memoir
on June 9, 1999
As someone in political science, I found Reich's book an endlessly fascinating read, for several reasons:
1) His wit and humor, which he was not afraid to aim at himself.
2) Seeing national policymaking from a Cabinet Secretarial perspective, which we almost never see in books. You literally see how and why the Clinton Administration struggled with its attempts to follow through on some of its significant policy reform promises of 1992. You also see through Reich's eyes the intense competition for just mere access to a President's ear, particularly between White House staffers and Cabinet Secretaries. Finally, he states clearly one main obstacle he and other Cabinet secretaries face in policymaking and implementing: the cross-pressuredness from organized labor and free-trade advocates and how they "keep talking past each other" without seeing the partial truth in each other's positions.
3) How Reich raises some serious macroeconomic policy questions regarding economic globalization, free trade, income equality, job security, and how they possibly relate to each other and to other non-economic issues facing the nation and the world. One criticism I do have with Reich's work is that he perhaps goes overboard in citing over and over again his arguments from "The Work of Nations" and other previous books.
Note: Reich also has admitted to exaggerating about experiences with conservatives (i.e. at the National Association of Manufacturers' meeting and before one House committee) where he wasn't as "roasted" by them as he claimed to be in the hardcover version. However, we are reminded that this is a book about his own personal experiences as Secretary of Labor, so naturally we'll be seeing everything through his eyes and his political & ideological points of view.
In short, this book works on many levels, especially in the sharper focus and perspective it puts upon the seemingly maddening and confusing dynamics of 1990s politics.