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In the mid-1790s, Fisher Ames, a member of the First Federal Congress, declined to run for a fifth term in the House, questioning the usefulness of the legislative body, given the divided politics of the time, and making the remark that lends itself to the title of this book. The best-selling author of Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush (2007), Draper takes an unsparing look at the contemporary House of Representatives, given the divided politics of our time. Draper focuses on the major players, including Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as the freshman class of the 112th Congress to offer a revealing look at the messy legislative process. Among 435 colleagues, the ambitious distinguish themselves as earnest ideological newcomers, many sponsored by the Tea Party, and search to find effectiveness. Boehner, Pelosi, and their respective party members cut deals for votes, campaign funds, committee assignments, and other measures of influence, handing out rewards and punishments based on compliance with party politics—with very little legislative work getting done. This is a timely and insightful look at lawmakers as Americans brace themselves for continued political gridlock. --Vanessa Bush
“Vivid . . . Compelling . . . [Draper’s] refreshingly balanced account captures the drama of one of Congress’s most combative and maddeningly frustrating years in memory.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“Colorful . . . An engaging and often funny chronicle of the year in the House of Representatives following the Tea Party–powered 2010 elections.” (The New York Times Book Review)
“Superb . . . A rich and deeply reported look at the House Republicans who took over the chamber after the 2010 elections.” (Ryan Lizza The New Yorker's "Ten Best Political Books of 2012")
“A gripping and fast-paced narrative.” (The Daily Beast)
--This text refers to the
Robert Draper has been a national correspondent for GQ magazine for the past decade, and prior to that was senior editor at Texas Monthly. He lives in Washington, D.C. He is author of a novel, Hadrian's Walls (Knopf), and the biography Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History.
This new book genuinely confirms my worst fears about the decay of our government through the last five Congressional sessions. I listened to a detailed preview and interview about Do Not Ask What Good We Do through online and cable news recently. As a proud non-partisan Independent, born out of 6 generations of Republicans, I now fear greatly for our nation. Moreover, Robert Draper's book underscores how a relatively small radical segment of the Republican Party is now trying to secretly diminish and seemly dismantle our "We the people" government simply for their narrow short-term election year power gains. Behind what appears to be the necessary checks and balances by Congressional governance, it's now really all about winning elections, staying in office, making money, agitating class warfare, political distractions, coded rhetoric, and setting-up to win the next election to make more money. Has anyone ever asked themselves if we really want "less government," then does the trillions of our tax dollars dollars we pay remain in their pockets -- can you say what "taxation without representation" means now? Clearly, Mr. Draper's book title is perfect for our times. Ironically, the GOP started out as an anti-slavery, socioeconomic rights and political equality party in the 1850s when we were a young nation and a very divided republic -- including our national "birth defect" of slavery and various forms of racial terrorism, according to former (Republican) U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Having read Grand Old Party by Lewis L. Gould, Thaddeus Stevens: Nineteenth Century Egalitarian by Hans L. Trefousse, American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia by Bruce Frohnen, Jeremy Beer and Jeffrey O. Nelson, and Alfred Blumrosen's Slave Nation book (truly must-reads), greatly enhanced what Mr.Read more ›
Robert Draper is a first-rate writer. In this page-turner he treats Democrats and Republicans (and Tea Partiers) with equal care and criticism.
Draper is a "fly on the wall" through the 2011 sessions of the House of Representatives. Through his phenomenal penmanship we get to meet many Reps like Tea Party freshmen Jeff Duncan and Allen West, the soon-to-be-disgraced Anthony Weiner, and "Dean of the House" John Dingell, D-MI, to name only a few.
We get to see inside the machinations of the House of Representatives during the Continuing Resolutions (to continue funding the Federal government) and the debt ceiling debates -- ending with the so-called Super Committee, which (we learn) Senator Harry Reid expected to fail when he proposed it (see page 274).
With earmarks gone for this session of Congress, the majority party leaders (Boehner and Cantor and McCarthy) had no way to lure Tea Party freshmen into voting the way the party leadership wanted them to... leading to one of the most legislatively-unproductive Congresses in American history, with the House passing only some 90 bills.
Draper periodically opens chapters with entertaining stories from Congresses of previous centuries that were mired in partisan deadlocks. The historical perspective is reassuring: there is nothing new under the sun in politics.
If the book were three times longer I would have enjoyed it three times as much. I couldn't get enough of this inside look at the sausage-making process.
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Bashing Congress is hardly new, as Robert Draper quickly points out. Complaints from within and without date back to the early days of our Republic and certainly everything here is hardly a newsflash from a Congress that not only has the lowest public opinion in history, but seems hell bent on driving it still further downwards. Dysfunctional Congresses and partisan politics are likewise nothing new, but what is stunning is the access that Draper is given by members of the 112th Congress and that Draper is willing to serve it up, warts and all. Most reporters and members of the media are so timid and afraid of saying what is REALLY going on out of fear that their access to politicians will be cut off. As a result they apparently willingly acquiesce and will only cite "unnamed sources" or will heavily water down what true news they do report so as not to offend. That is NOT the case with Draper as he names names and says what was really going on behind the scenes during the current (112th) Congress, some of which points out why opinion polls rank them so poorly. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat you'll find much to agree with and much that will shock you as politicians in both parties come off very badly.
Some of the shots Draper takes are obvious ones, like the idiotic hubris of Rep. Anthony Weiner, who got what he deserved. Draper skewers Weiner ruthlessly here and takes no prisoners on either side of the aisle. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi is revealed as despised by members of her own party for forcing unpopular votes on vulnerable members in the 111th Congress that cost many their seats in the 2010 elections. President Obama comes in for criticism from congressmen for his unwillingness to lead or to use his political capital to advance causes near and dear to his heart.Read more ›