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The Corruption of American Politics: What Went Wrong and Why Hardcover – August, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington Pub Corp (T); First Edition edition (August 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559725206
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559725200
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #813,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Elizabeth Drew, longtime Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, provides an up-close look at the scandalous roots of America's political culture. With its focus on campaign-finance reform, The Corruption of American Politics is not a flashy read but a surprisingly engrossing one, full of vivid characterizations and sly observations (one senator, for example, is described as "unburdened by brilliance"). Drew places her subject in the larger context of what has happened to American political life since Watergate. The public has lost most of its faith in government, she writes, warning: "Lack of trust creates the risk of susceptibility to demagoguery, or of abuses of the democratic process." Her behind-the-scenes descriptions are a real strength--she has incredible access to Washington's movers and shakers--but they also give rise to a weakness: the politicians who double as sources tend to come off well, while the reverse is true for those who didn't invite Drew into their confidence. In addition, readers who lean conservative may detect a whiff of liberal bias on these pages; yet they need not agree with all of Drew's judgments to appreciate her journalism. For a glimpse at how Washington really works--from the naked partisanship of Congress to the White House spin machine--Elizabeth Drew is hard to beat. --John J. Miller

From Booklist

Drew has been writing about Washington for a generation, so she is more than qualified to consider "the debasement of American politics over the past twenty-five years." In Whatever It Takes , she described how campaign finance law was manipulated in 1996; it was said that Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) kept a copy of her book nearby as he headed the Senate committee investigating campaign finances. It comes as no surprise, then, that Corruption is largely about the travails of that committee and the unsuccessful efforts of legislators, including Thompson, John McCain (R-AZ), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Christopher Shays (R-CT), and Marty Meehan (D-MA), to pass legislation to reform the system. But the same issues central to the campaign reform battle--the dominant role of money, intense partisanship, lack of civility, erosion of trust, institutional failures, lack of leadership--were on display in the impeachment struggle, which Drew also discusses here. True to her years with the New Yorker, Drew never hesitates to deliver opinions; how awful to be one of the legislators she labels a "dim bulb" ! For political junkies and others who care about what happens inside the Beltway, Corruption offers fascinating insider detail. Mary Carroll

Customer Reviews

A strong "must read" for all voters!
Readin' Rick
I still don't understand how we are going to change campaign finance reform.
Overall the book was interesting and well written.
John G. Hilliard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By slomamma on August 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Elizabeth Drew wrote this book about campaign finance reform in 1999, but unfortunately itÕs still relevant. For years, Drew has been one of the most level headed and non-partisan political writers around. ThereÕs not a bit of "spin" in her work. So when someone as calm and reasonable as this writer says that the politicians we have to day are less intelligent, less thoughtful and less ethical than the politicians of a generation ago, I take her very seriously. We all love to complain about politicians, but Drew obviously has a lot of respect for government and the people who once served in it. She doesnÕt engage in idle rhetoric. Drew argues that we have lousy people representing us because the need to constantly raise money has driven out of politics all but a handful of the best people, leaving us nothing but the dregs. Both houses of Congress are now stuffed with men (and a handful of women) who know more about money grubbing than they do about history, economics or public policy. And money influences not only the quality of the legislators, but the kind of issues that come before congress. Like John McCain, she insists that we canÕt use government to help solve any of our problems until we get control of the power money has over politicians. Right now "our" government simply doesnÕt belong to us. I wish there were more solutions offered here. Drew ends by reminding the reader of the importance of voting and writing to representatives. That doesnÕt seem to me nearly strong enough. There must be more we can do. But as a chronicle of the influence of money in contemporary politics, this book canÕt be beat.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I didn't vote for Nader and LaDuke this last election, but I understand why there were lots of voters who did. There may be differences between the Democratic and Republican "visions," but one thing both parties see clearly enough is $$$$ galor, soft, hard and in the shades of grey between. This, plus the eroding of even a modicum of civility and decorum in the House and Senate (I worked on Capitol Hill during the Seventies and, yes, both chambers USED to be civilized; thanks for nothing, Newt!) and the other ways in which our governing branches have fallen apart, are examined by Elizabeth Drew in detail and with a great deal of (warranted) dismay and disgust. And contrary to the folks here who've complained of Drew's so-called liberal bias, damned few current senators or representatives of any political stripe come out of this book without smelling. Senator Fred Thompson is one of the few who does emerge unscathed, hardly a "fiery liberal spirit," to paraphrase Tom Lehrer. This book may or may not be revelatory overall, but, more likely, it'll confirm what you've suspected all along---the system'll stay broke so long as money and special interests call the tune. Slick Willie's latest post-presidency revelations certainly indicate that this much is true and Mitch McConnell's only allegiance has been to the almighty dollar, anyway, so....but enough. A good, provocative book that should boil your blood.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The book is a compelling argument for campaign finance reform, and a sobering portrait of the petty bickering, hypocrisy, and corruption inherent in the current system of federal elections. The reviewer from Washington, D.C., is not to be trusted; he or she misrepresents the First Amendment issues that hypocrits like Mitch McConnell use to scuttle reform bills. Drew devotes a whole chapter to the First Amendment, shining light on how soft money is used to fund "issue ads" that aren't about issues at all but are designed to target specific candidates. In the end, the current system favors incumbents or wealthy individuals, and leads to bribery of elected officials. Despite their rhetoric, people opposed to campaign finance reform are not defending the First Amendment; they are simply using any means possible to stay in power and thwart true representation in government.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John G. Hilliard on November 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have enjoyed reading this authors work in the past so I was interested to see what she did with this topic. I was not disappointed with the book, but I felt that the title and dust jacket description was misleading. The book is presented as going to be a history sense Nixon as to the steady decline in American politics. What the book delivered is some history, but basically a complete review of the Fred Thompson 1996 campaign financing hearings and the President Clinton Impeachment process. With this said I was not disappointed because the author is great at adding interesting insights into the personalities of the House and Senate members she talks about. Many descriptions could be called biting, she does not side step comments that could be considered non-politically correct. She also goes after everyone involved, I have heard that some people think she is a bit liberal in her views but judging by the comments she makes on Clinton et all I was hard pressed to find the liberal soft spot.
Overall she gives a very good analysis of the current state of American politics, which comes down to one thing - it takes lots of money to win. Unfortunately that means that the politicians we have spend a great amount of their time asking, begging and anything else to get money. I also found the discussion on the increase levels of partisan tactics to be very concerning. How can anything worth while get done in the current environment? Lastly she also dropped into the book interesting details of the rules of the House and Senate. Overall the book was interesting and well written.
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