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Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power: Making Washington Work Again Paperback – April 28, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Despite the partisan ideology that has gridlocked Washington, D.C., behind-the-scenes power brokers are able to get laws passed, deals done, appointments made. Correspondents Harwood and Seib profile some of those power brokers, including lobbyist Ken Duberstein, businessman David Rubenstein, Democratic strategist Rahm Emanuel, Republican strategist Karl Rove, fund-raiser Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and policy advisor Elliott Abrams. The authors detail how these power brokers rose to influence, some crossing party lines, and how they maintain their positions. In transactions from the Dubai ports deal debacle to the public relations battle over Wal-Mart and behind-the-scene machinations of the war in Iraq, the authors examine the influence of the powerful who don’t let ideology get in the way of the deal. Harwood and Seib examine Washington’s earlier history and the new strains produced by unprecedented ideological polarization, devoid of any of the personal camaraderie of the past. They conclude by exploring prospects for the future as both political parties recognize the gridlock and make efforts to soften the sharp edges. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Essential reading for anyone interested in the inside workings of American politics.” —Brian Williams, anchor, NBC Nightly News

“Fresh and stimulating . . . Harwood and Seib take readers behind Washington’s facades, showing how business really gets done.”—New York Times Book Review

“Among their peers, John Harwood and Gerald Seib are respected as the gold standard of deep and honest reporting. Some journalists pretend they know what is going on; Harwood and Seib really do, as they prove once again in this evocative and insightful book.” —David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize—winning author of First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton

“Informative and timely . . . [Readers] will come away with a greater knowledge of how the Washington power game is played.”—Washington Times

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812976584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812976588
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,297,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Paul Hosse on May 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Washington is about power and access to power. We're simultaneously attracted and repulsed by the audacity of those plying their trade in quiet darken anterooms. John Harwood and Gerald Seib, in their book, "Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power", shined a spot light on those who work and play in the shadows of Washington politics.

Through great background research and first hand interviews with key players such as Karl Rove, Ed Rogers, Ken Duberstein, this is an excellent book for those wanting to know how deals are made, and how the wheels of power are greased".
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Matt Cuddy on May 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In an era of 24-hour cable news, endless political blogs and an infinite number of political talk shows, it was refreshing to get beyond the noise and meet the people who really pull the levers. Newscasts are filled with commentary about "Washington gridlock" and "Washington insiders," without ever getting to the root causes of the issues or ever understanding the people beyond the headlines. This book gives texture and shape to these vague labels.

Pennsylvania Avenue, Profiles in Backroom Power offers a series of profiles of people that most Americans probably see quoted in mainstream media everyday, but have no idea why they are opinion leaders.

The book is interesting if just for the profiles, but it also ties together how many of these players on the chessboard interact. These power brokers either succeed or fail in a way that creates the headlines we all read.

I think this book should be mandatory reading for all aspiring political science students or anyone who wants a better understanding of how the most famous Avenue in the United States really works.

I look forward to a sequel in 2009 when a new wave of deal makers ride into town.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on May 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those of us of a certain age who remember the Everett Dirksens and Mike Mansfields of Washington in years gone by, John Harwood and Gerald Seib have put together a compact and informative work regarding where at least some of the power rests in Washington these days. With an increase of coverage by the networks and cable of the major players, the co-authors have compiled a list of powerbrokers who run more of the show than we know. Our nation's capital is like no place else and Harwood and Seib remind us that history is always being made on that far from lonely stretch of road known as Pennsylvania Avenue.

While the narratives are short, the book succeeds in a comprehensive way. We all know Karl Rove and many more know Charlie Rangel. Indeed, white men are more represented here than others, but people like Hilary Rosen and Lea Berman, not to mention Debbie Wasserman Schultz appear as major players...some in highly competitive political ways and some in more coalition-building endeavors. If one ever had any hopes for Washington, this book might just give you a hint of a glimmer.

It would be great to see Harwood and Seib write a sequel that broadens a look at the next group of insiders to appear, given the nature of a political climate that's bound to see some major changes after November. As for now, this is a good start and I highly recommend "Pennsylvania Avenue" for its introduction to the incumbent powers that be and the rising stars that will surely follow.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Big D VINE VOICE on July 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
There's hope yet...

And this reasonable, well-written book gives it to us...and its nice and refreshing to read a book about politics and Washington without people shouting or belittling one another.

(People up there need to do what our founding fathers did. Argue all day, argue like hell, then go down to the City Tavern, have a beer/ale, solve the problem, agree, come back and vote on what they decided the next day.)

Folks up there need to calm down, take a step backward, put down the microphones, step back from the cameras, take a deep breath and say, to one another, not to the TV commentators, "Now, what do we need to do and how can we work this out..."

This book gives us hope for that, in a calm, reasoned way without being overly cute, patriotic, emotional and sentimental.

(But we still may need to "Throw the Bastards Out," some of them at least. This book lets us know it's not hopeless. Not yet.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jack Lechelt on December 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fine, short book on current politics in America. Harwood and Seib both worked for the Wall Street Journal (Seib still does). Their non-partisan approach to the problems and potential cures for what ails the American political process is useful. The chapters are short and each focuses on one or two powerful political folks. Some of those folks are well known, like Karl Rove and Jim Webb, and others are the backroom players that few people hear much about. A few overriding themes include the influence of money in politics, the nastiness of political fights, and the increasing chasm between the two parties. Well worth it and easy to get through.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Karin Chenoweth on October 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I finished reading the book a while ago, and I find it gives me food for thought during this political season--particularly when I see one or another of the profiled people quoted or interviewed. Though I work in Washington, I have little interaction with the world depicted in Pennsylvania Avenue--but, having read it, I now know a lot more. We all think of ourselves as jaded, but I was really startled by the sheer volume of money that Harwood and Seib describe as flowing through the political world. They may not be partisan, but they do describe a system that desperately needs change.
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