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The Power Game: How Washington Works Paperback – September 29, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 793 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 29, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345410483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345410481
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Smith takes the reader inside the political process in Washington, discusses changes over the past decade and the present network, then explains how the parts fit together. Having enjoyed "a fifty-yard-line seat at the power game" for a quarter century as a New York Times correspondent and bureau chief, he is well placed to report on the new congressional assertiveness against the presidency, the explosion of special-interest politics, the massive growth in staff power, the burgeoning of video politicsas well as such long-established goings-on as the partnership between the military services, defense contractors and members of Congress. The book is not only a survey and analysis of major dimension, it is a probing documentary: in discussing how political coalitions are arranged or how congressional mavericks play "porcupine politics," for instance, Smith often presents the action itself in scenes with dialogue. Many of the anecdotes and quotes found in these pages will become part of the national folklore. A sure-fire bestseller. BOMC featured selection.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

To succeed at politics, one must realize that power comes to those who are smart and quick enough to grab it. Smith ( The Russians , LJ 9/15/76) relies primarily on anecdotes and case studies from the Reagan era to illustrate how the use of power determines the effectiveness of government. He brilliantly relates how structural changes in the political environment have created a new breed of largely unaccountable video politician. His Washington is a "city of cocker spaniels" whose government officials need constant approval and membership in ever-changing alliances to flourish. Potentially the political book of the year; highly recommended. Karl Helicher, Wolfsohn Memorial Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Hedrick's insight and opinions remain accurate today.
Thomas W. Carter
If you are thinking of reading this book, make sure you have time and a lot of love for America.
K. Alyce Hewes
This is one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read.
Roger Thornhill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
Hedrick Smith's "The Power Game" is easily the best, and most informative, political book to come out in the last 25 years. Through his myriad of stories, Smith pieces together a definitive profile of Washington: what its like, who wins, who loses, and what the games are. It gives an informative outline as to the fundamental strategies and actions are in Washington, and what the role of certain circles of power are, such as the media, the military, and the lobbies.

The examples Smith uses to illustrate his points on Washington come mainly from the Reagan administration. Smith's analysis of the Reagan era is very troubling, and he specifically says that the actions of the Reagan team are similar to all the teams of "successful" Presidents. Inadvertently (or perhaps purposefully), Smith raises serious questions about the ethics of Washington today, and the actions of the present day administration. He also points out the actions of Congress, and the faults with the present-day system. Smith also delves into the origins of our system, tracing the impact of various political events throughout history. Smith manages to make this not only readable, but highly interesting. He mixes humor and wit with biting sarcasm and investigative journalism, all making for a very intelligent and thorough analysis of Washington. Even Smith's solutions are concise and cogent.

Smith is not a brilliant writer: he is adept, but he is not brilliant. His strength lies in research and presentation of his extensive material. Surprisingly, Smith is able to deliver the material in a very readable, friendly way. Despite being an insider for so many years, he is able to write as a tourist, stunned by the denigration of Washington over the years.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Roger Thornhill on January 5, 1998
Format: Paperback
...or doesn't work! This is one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read. Learn about "power surfing" and other useful techniques used by the most savy of power players in our nation's capital. Before I read this book, I naively thought power in our federal government was a linear, north-south, hierarchic beast. Boy, was I wrong. It gets passed around like a beach ball. Hedrick Smith uses the Reagan Administration as his example, but the template he draws can easily be transferred to the Clinton White House. This is a long book, but it's worth the investment if you want to become a wiser citizen or just to be entertained by the power plays of our elected officials. I just finished reading former Labor Secretary Robert Reich's memoirs, "Locked in the Cabinet". I venture to say that if he had read this book before he became a Cabinet member, it would have saved him a LOT of grief and made him a more effective official. This book should be required reading to anyone who gets elected or appointed to federal positions in Washington.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jack Lechelt on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book should be required reading for undergraduates alongside a good American Government textbook. As opposed to textbook description of our governmental process, Smith's book digs a little deeper to describe how American government - and politics - really works. It is big but fairly readable. There are some flaws: the book is a bit dated as it was written in the late 80s (e.g. Smith talks about the problems of PACs in campaign but today's problem is soft money); there are a surprisingly decent number of typos and editing oversights; finally, like I mentioned, it is a large book and at some points, few as they are, where the book drags. At the least, a good teacher could use the book and pull out certain chapters that are more pertinent. ENJOY!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 1997
Format: Paperback
Hedrick Smith has answered the troublesome question, "Why don't our current leaders measure up to those I read about in history books?" The answer is simple: our previous leaders have successfully exercised power in a few instances, and in hindsight it looks easy. People who are trying to exercise power have to deal with the fact that grasping power is like squeezing a balloon -- the harder you squeeze, the more slips through your fingers. Institutional checks and balances are described, but the most compelling aspects of Smith's book come from his analysis of the role of lobbyists, staffers, and constituents and their role in giving and taking power from our leaders. Reagan, currently championed by conservatives as the epitome of the powerful president, is exposed as more susceptible to the political winds after blunders like Iran-Contra. Powerful congressional committee chairs have had their power split asunder by new voting rules, and the laws have become so complex that no single poltician can know all the detail behind them. The power therefore transfers to the staffers who take the time to understand the piles of data and who can communicate it effectively. And there is always the fickle wind of public opinion wafting across D.C., changing politicians' courses as quickly as it can be ascertained which direction it's blowing. Of course, as soon as the politicians figure out where it's blowing, it changes, and the whole scramble starts again. A true gem for the political junkie, every student of D.C. and the exercise of governmental power must read this book
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