259 of 288 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2012
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. Draper is detailing. The bottom line: today's GOP brand has been mostly body-snatched by self-serving special interest parasites. The strategy of pre-emptive politics and fear mongering for short-term gains is the new status quo -- the divide and conquer tactic. Regardless of your political leanings, I hope many will read Do Not Ask What Good We Do during, before and beyond election day. I definitely will -- just as I will still pay taxes, and vote people in or out of office -- even if I'm possibly the last rat on potentially sinking ship.
102 of 115 people found the following review helpful
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. The right's criticism of Obama "leading from behind" frequently came to mind and Draper lays things out with a crispness and conciseness he demonstrated in his columns for Politico and the New York Post. Republicans take the heat as well, with many, including key leaders, demonstrating a fundamental failure to grasp basic economics which clearly hampered negotiations during the budget debates and beyond. The ubiquity and mindlessness of talking points is thrown up for the ridicule it deserves with many members unwilling to deviate from their party's line or to show any original or creative thinking.
On balance neither party comes off well, and if anything reading "Do Not Ask..." will diminish and degrade any lingering respect you may have had for Congress, congressmen, and our current two-party system. Draper's expose also indirectly exposes how the media keeps our society under-informed and underserved, serving to play off our existing partisan divide. I found myself thinking of the comment Garry Marshall's character Stan Lansing on "Murphy Brown" about "politics is a game of three card monte designed to distract everyone while everything goes to hell". By turns depressing, dispiriting, and saddening, "Do Not Ask..." points out the inadequacy of our current system and sadly it doesn't offer any solutions. That is left for the reader to determine. "Do Not Ask..." will certainly prove popular on the Sunday talk shows, with the 99% crowd and Tea Party supporters. What they do with it remains to be seen.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2012
This book gives an inside look into the 112th Congress by following the budding careers of Republican Freshmen (Jeff Duncan, Allen West, Blake Farenthold, Renee Ellmers, Raul Labrador) and detailing their frustrations and successes. A few veteran Democrats such as John Dingell, Chris Van Hollen, Anthony Weiner, and Sheila Jackson Lee appear throughout, but the focus is primarily on young Republicans. Draper's tone and anecdotes are designed to create disgust in the reader towards Congress, and readers of all political viewpoints will probably agree that Draper does this successfully.
Draper discusses events from 2010-2012 in great detail (with the chapter on the debt ceiling particularly well detailed), but there is little analysis of Congressional history and no discussion of what the future of the House might look like. The book lacks a major overriding theme or argument, so the reader is left to reach his/her own conclusions. The book is nonetheless entertaining reading and based on the bibliography, Draper conducted an appropriate number of interviews to create an authoritative portrayal of the members highlighted. Draper also did a good job of exposing the conflicts facing the Freshman between being leaders and representatives of their constituents by observing town hall meetings and other district gatherings. Readers who greatly enjoy politics will be very satisfied by this book and the unique perspective is offers.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Draper does a good job getting to know individual members of the 2011-12 Congress, particularly the freshman Tea Party Republicans -- but also gadfly Democrat Weiner, the Dean of the House Dingell, Pelosi, Boehner, and House Whip McCarthy. Draper is not a fan of the Tea Party and adds a few zingers that will delight Democrats and irritate Republicans. However, he does a very good job of telling their individual stories, so that the reader is in a position to understand the charm of guys like Allen West and how they appeal to their districts.
But the Republicans do not come off well in this account. McCarthy and Boehner create a monster by enabling misbehavior by the freshmen, who are accountable to no one. Of course, the safeness of their districts, their lack of any real debt to the party for their election, and the end of the old pork barrel politics of earmarks would make it very difficult for a Sam Rayburn style leader to control these guys. The irritating thing is that having provoked a confrontation in the debt limit crisis, the freshmen then still don't provide the votes necessary to deliver a deal that's pretty good for their side. So the Democrats hold their nose and vote along -- blaming Obama's negotiating ineptitude in the process. This perhaps explains why the the 2013 debt limit crisis will be far harder to resolve. There are a lot of hard feelings on the Hill, and the Tea Party act is really beginning to wear on people.
The most disturbing thing about the Tea Party Republicans is their lack of intellectual curiousity. They have some core general principles that they don't question: we spend too much, government is too big. But what does that really mean? And one cannot get the U.S. fiscal house in order without some hard choices and long term planning regarding entitlement spending and the need for more revenues. Instead, the Freshman want to make a big splash right now without really thinking through the need for a long term plan and the damage done to the U.S. by lurching from self-created fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis. This is not a group given to mature thought and planning, and so they really don't accomplish much other than to get themselves re-elected. And they embrace what historian Richard Hofstadter called the "Paranoid Style" in American politics -- these guys seriously talk about Islamic law taking over the U.S. and prefer scare stories to analysis in discussing financial affairs.
Weiner is the Democratic version of the Tea Party Republican -- completely obsessed with his own career, a media gadfly, and hopelessly narrow minded and partisan. Pelosi is portrayed sympathetically -- a powerful and brutally effective leader who rammed through the healthcare legislation in 2010. Boehner is portrayed as an exceptionally weak Speaker unable to control his own caucus and (unlike the far more effective Pelosi) allowing himself to be undercut by his juniors without retaliation.
Very good, if depressing book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2012
Do Not Ask What Good We Do is a narrative of the house of representatives (HoR), focusing principally on events between 2010 and 2012. The author uses federal history dating as far back as the founding of America to reflect on the current workings and activities of the HoR. There is an insightful theme running throughout the book, which is that the HoR has always been a place of great frustration and complexity, because it reflects the condition of its people, perhaps too well. As society develops, we has humans must continue to adapt to the increasing complexity of the world we live in. The perpetually shifting moral standards of the majority are the princple battleground of a changing soceity, and this is reflected intensely by the people we elect to run our government. This is essentially what happened during the 2010 election that completely flipped the majority of the HoR from democrat to republican. The principle driving force for this dramatic shift in power was the Tea Party movement. This was, in turn, inspired by the rising national debt and a desperate call of US citizens to reduce federal spending. The problem became that the people and their government were hopelessly divided in opinion on how to fix the situation.
Do Not Ask What Good We do is a blow-by-blow account of the historic, horrific and often bizarre events that have taken place with some of the most well known HoR members between 2010 to 2012, including John Boehner, Allen West, John Dingell, Gabrielle Giffords and Anthony Weiner. Many will recognize the stories as Robert Draper portrays them, and be given additional background and insight into details and motivations behind each moment. Do Not Ask What Good We Do is a significant piece of nonfiction for reading now, and in many years to come. It is important for the citizens of a nation to understand that government is merely a reflection of their own actions, and we certainly do get exactly what we ask for. If we fail to compromise as a nation, then it is what we can expect the people we vote for to do in Washington. This novel is almost completely unbiased. The very fact that it was written when it was would suggest that it is biased in favor of the Democratic party, but if one reads the book in its entirety they will see this is not true. The book is about the individuals, and understanding their struggles and motivations. Doing this correctly leaves no bias to be implied, and I believe this book as succeeded in doing this. I would suggest this book for those who are interested in politics, and even more those who are not, but are curious. There are facts and useful information strewn throughout the book that I find valuable as well. The book is relatively short, and I would say that it was a bit jumbled, but I give the author tremendous respect for being able to write and publish it as quickly as he had in order to include so many fresh details upon release.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2012
An excellent up to date read full of information the public needs to know before the next election.
A timely expose' of a group of elected officials who subjected an entire nation to unnecessary suffering due to their personal and collective hatred of the President of the United States.
The reason? It has to be the color of his skin, for there is no doubt that he is perhaps the best and brightest President in the history of this great nation.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2012
Draper beautifully captures a number of vivid House players like Allen West and the great, indomitable John Dingell. As someone who has written about Congress myself, I greatly admire the way this book grabs the reader and keep him/her enthralled almost like reading a great novel. Bravo.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2012
A fantastic book that is a must-read for any one interested in the current state of national politics. Though Draper never explicitly says it, the book demonstrates the disjuncture between what Americans say they want (bipartisanship and compromise) and what they do (vote for hyper-partisan individuals who campaign on anti-compromise platforms). If Congress looks bad in Draper's telling, American voters implicitly look worse.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Whether he intended to or not, the author's accounts verify the public's perception that the House is dysfunctional and both political parties are more interested in power than in representing the public. The Tea Party and the Black Caucus have changed the "business as usual" but oversized egos and power politics go on within each party.
I liked being able to take a peak into normally closed meetings of the parties. Its a fact that both parties attempt to get everyone to vote as a block. Some individuals see the direness of our national situation and others either don't or don't care.
What you won't get out of the commentary is how corporations are writing legislation that benefits them and then getting a Congressman to introduce it as a bill. Then they pull the strings of those they have funded (bribed). So some of the legislation discussed in the book does not have its origins in the minds of the legislators.
Depending on your personal beliefs you will probably take offense at what the author chooses to report. I would suggest that you take a look at the bigger problem- gridlock invites authoritarian rule.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2012
Robert Draper, knowing that that the number one priority of the Republicans was to make Obama a one-term president, decided to immerse himself for a year in the U.S. House of Representatives. After the 2010 elections, this body of government was destined to spend its energy into obstructing the president. Draper spent a year interviewing congressman and especially did a good job of documenting one of history's least significant congresses.