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The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point Hardcover – May, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0316469692 ISBN-10: 0316469696 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 668 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co (T); 1st edition (May 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316469696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316469692
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,851,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A remarkable feat of investigative reporting, this is probably the fullest account to date of the behind-the-scenes political battles surrounding President Clinton's failed health insurance initiative. Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington reporters Johnson (Sleepwalking Through History) and Broder (Changing of the Guard) believe that Clinton made a major mistake in creating a special White House health-care task force headed by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and business consultant Ira Magaziner. The First Lady's presence stifled the free expression of ideas by cabinet members and White House aides, and the president overlooked Magaziner's track record of overly complicated, failed public-policy proposals, the authors charge. Furthermore, the Clinton plan had fatal vulnerabilities, notably the absence of a few simple structural principles that could be readily grasped by the public. The authors expose the full extent of the massive lobbying campaign by the plan's opponents, among them conservative Republicans, insurance companies, health-care providers and the Christian Coalition. This probe into the failure to provide affordable, universal health coverage brilliantly illuminates why so many people believe that the government no longer represents them. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

These two Pulitzer Prize-winning political commentators spent three years interviewing politicians, experts, citizens, and lobbyists for this superb narrative about the healthcare debate of 1993-95. President Clinton, interviewed several times, admits he underestimated the strength of fiscal and conservative special interests. The authors also attribute the failure of the healthcare bill to the lack of an electoral mandate; the leadership of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was too committed to universal care to be unbiased; and a proposed bill incomprehensible to legislators and citizens. A pledge by the Newt Gingrich-led House to defeat any Democratic proposal doomed the bill. The authors go beyond the Beltway to show that adequate medical coverage is becoming a have vs. have-not issue, for the inner city and for a growing number of downsized middle-class workers. This complex set of events provides lessons and warnings for a government that has lost its spirit of bipartisianship and no longer represents the best interests of its citizens. Highly recommended for public libraries. [For a similar discussion, see also Theda Skopcol's Boomerang, LJ 4/1/96; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/96.?Ed.]?Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
-?Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Regardless, The System is a must-read for anyone who wants to see American politics as it really exists.
Jack Lechelt
Clinton's attempt, probably the most dramatic attempt at a government program since the Great Society, failed miserably and helped to elect a Republican Congress.
Michael J. Berquist
Very Informative reading for anyone who wants to know more about that time in history, and wants to know how a bill REALLY becomes a law.
J. Hojnacki

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Berquist on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Clinton Health Care plan was a bold, dramatic attempt to transform the American health care system to take into account the fact that while America may provide the best health care in the world, far too many of its citizens are unable to afford it. Clinton's attempt, probably the most dramatic attempt at a government program since the Great Society, failed miserably and helped to elect a Republican Congress.
The battle the voters didn't see was the important one- the battle which nearly sank the Clinton Presidency and destroyed its ambitious health care proposal. The powers arrayed against the Clinton plan were formidable and well-financed, aided by the Administration's mind-numbing blunders.
"The System" has the entire story- the high hopes, the stunning reversals, the industry's toxic reaction to reform. The Clintonites quickly found that the old adage is true. No good deed goes unpunished.
"The System" is a very good book at who really calls the shots in American government and how little power people really have against the special interests. More valuable than ten years of civics lessons.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Broder and Johnson give an excellent look into the politics involved in everyday governing. From public speeches to secret meetings, the reader gets a new perspective on Washington and those who work there. The whole process of deal-making, lobbyists, and few compromises leaves the reader frustrated and enlightened about The System.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 1996
Format: Hardcover
Reviewing this history of the health reform effort, the central failure of the first Clinton Administration, is an excellent way to anticipate the shape of things to come in Clinton II. The authors, masterful insiders, use their unprecedented access to the highest levels of power to demonstrate how universal coverage, a goal supported by virtually all the key players, drowned in a sea of amateurish, hubris-ridden ineptitude on the part of the boomer generations' "best and brightest". Will history repeat itself in the form of another domestic Vietnam? Or have all the president's persons learned from their mistakes the lessons as set forth by the authors in their incisive conclusion, in which they conclude that the sickest entity of all may well be 'The System' itself
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 12, 1996
Format: Hardcover
An enlightening and dispiriting account of the rise and fall of President Clinton's health care reform plan. Broder and Johnson interviewed all the principals, from President Clinton and Hillary Clinton down to uninsured individuals dealing with serious health problems. Diagnosis: Change the U.S. health care system to provide all Americans with access to basic health care. Prescription: Massive federal program to expand the health insurance market and control costs. Outcome: An arrogant and inexperienced White House staff unwilling to compromise, faced with well-organized and vehement opposition from Republican lawmakers and a variety of special interest groups, led to stalemate
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Mack on February 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you really want to get into the heads of the players behind the Clinton Health Care Reform plan then you must read Johnson and Broder's "The System." It reads more like a novel than textbook (which I happen to like). For anyone interested in health policy or political strategy this is a must-read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jack Lechelt on December 19, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perhaps only Showdown at Gucci Gulch matches The System for a true focus on how big-time policy really gets enacted - or doesn't as the Clinton health care drive shows. Whereas the Gucci Gulch focused on Reagan's 1986 tax policy overhaul success, The System follows President Clinton's efforts to revamp healthcare in America. What makes The System more representative of the political process than Gucci Gulch is that healthcare reform failed. Because of Clinton management inexperience, and Gingrich "coagulation" and scare tactics, healthcare reform never happened. That may be for the better. Clinton's plan left little to be desired, though it was not the "socialized medicine" that the right claimed it was. Still, that does not mean it was a worthy plan. The real problem, however, that scoring political success for both sides trumped the search for wise policy. Most everyone at the outset agreed that there was something wrong with healthcare, but change failed to occur. And no one is absolved of blame by Johnson and Broder: the President, First Lady, the wider Administration, Congress, the press, interest groups, and the public all allowed this to happen. Again, that doesn't mean that Clinton's plan should have been adopted, but something could have been done to better deal with the many healthcare problems plaguing the nation.

Regardless, The System is a must-read for anyone who wants to see American politics as it really exists.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on December 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book for any student of the political process.
The authors are biased. They believe the Hillary Clinton health care plan should have been enacted and present their study from this point of view. Their slant is annoying. However, it ultimately does not detract too much from a very able telling of the conceptualization, selling, manuevering and strategy employed by both sides over the struggle to socialize medicine in the United States.
Although never pretty or highminded as we are taught in civics class, the book shows a democratic (small "d") system at work. Both sides had true believers who were guided by philosophy and were trying to do what was "right." Both sides had craven opportunists driven by darker more mercurial instincts. The American Congress worked to examine the issue and resolve the dispute as the framers had intended: by providing a forum for parties on both sides of the debate to hash out their perspectives and come to a resolution (one must always keep in mind that an equally legitimate action of any legislative body is to say no to proposals that are unwise or do not have sufficient political support.)
This book will educate the average citizen and fascinate the political junkie.
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