Customer Reviews: The Power Game: How Washington Works
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on February 4, 1998
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. He is also able to use his experience to give first-hand insight into corrupt Washington, all of which leads to a very smart, very good book. Smith is a little wordy, and he has many passages which are extraneous, but despite the flaws, he has packed this book with information every American must know. A must-read for all interested in our government at all. In fact, this is a book that every person who votes must read, because it gives tremendous insight into our system. A fine job.
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on January 5, 1998
...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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 14, 2013
The author has a good insight into the real workings of the federal government on a personal levels. He goes into the human interactions and "wheelings and dealing" - the real stuff in politics. For these reasons, government does not follow the clean diagrams in a "flow chart." It is a "dirty business," and the players are dirtier.
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on August 8, 2012
I bought this book as it was required for an American Politics class. I was inimidated by the length, but as I started reading Smith is a wonderful writer. It is interesting and informative. I also did some reading about the author and found a video from 1988 talking about this book. Once I heard him speak and saw how charismatic he is, I enjoyed the book even that much more.
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on August 8, 2001
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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on August 20, 1997
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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on August 9, 2013
Read this for a high school american government class and found it incredibly informative. Have not revisited it in years, so may not be as relevant today but was certainly a great intro for a youngster.
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on December 25, 2012
This is one of the best UNBIASED books on power politics as practiced on the national stage, I've ever run across. The book was written in the '80's and the examples are from that era, but the principles and practices are basically unchanged. I would highly recommend it to anyone trying to make sense of the Washington "Clown Show".
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on May 17, 2013
As a guy mentioned in the book and interviewed by the author for the book and filmed in the PBS documentary, I want to tell you something in May, 2013: little has changed. Not surprising, because neither human nature, combat, nor the factors within the Iron Triangle have changed. I happen to be a (perhaps) superannuated guy in the weapon system testing business in the Pentagon. Most of my older compatriots recognize that nothing has changed except the technology and locus of today's combat. Hedrick's insight and opinions remain accurate today.

Tom Carter
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on July 24, 2015
Interesting book but it seems to mention much of the same scenarios of attaining power many times, albeit form different perspectives. Makes the book a little difficult to stay with and a bit redundant.
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