226 of 253 people found the following review helpful
This book could be really good if Abramoff wasn't such a total narcissist.,
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This review is from: Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist (Hardcover)
This book has its interesting moments, and it could have been a really good book. But listening to Abramoff brag on himself page after page after page takes so much away from the story. His self love is a major distraction. But the book is also very revealing - on two levels. One is the revelations he intentionally shares about Washington, lobbying and politics (as well as his experiences in Hollywood and with Imelda Marcos and his treatment in prison). The other is his unintentional revelations as to what kind of person he is. You can't read this book without seeing him for the narcissist he is. To hear him tell it, most people are self-serving, lazy, greedy and bad - everyone but the people he loves like Tom DeLay and his other "friends." From his perspective, he's generous to a fault, kind, godly, and is smarter and works harder than anyone. Anyone who has ever worked on Capitol Hill or in politics will very quickly see through Abramoff's self promotion.
Don't get me wrong. This book is interesting and telling at times (such as the way he portrays Ralph Reed, experiences with members of Congress, battles like the one he had with movie producers who set up shop outside his restaurant, etc.), and I don't regret reading it. But this is not a five-star book, and I really don't understand the unconditional raves for this book or the fact all reviews before mine were five star. A couple of them don't even sound like they read they same book I read. But read the book and judge for yourself. I noticed that this is the first review ever posted by several five-star reviewers, and it is the second or third review for all the other five-star reviewers. Also, 9 of the 12 people who reviewed this book before I did read the entire book and published their five-star rave reviews on the exact same day this book was released - November 7th. All that doesn't always mean anything, but I find that information helpful when deciding whether to purchase a book that seems to get all rave reviews. The subject matter is what makes this book interesting, but the writing and the writer prevent it from being a great book or anything more than a three-star book for me. The three stars (instead of one or two) is for the information and for tackling a subject not many people have taken on.
Even with all the scandals he has been involved with that I already knew a good bit about, I never disliked Abramoff until I read this book. Quite the contrary, in fact. I liked the fact he has taken on and called out some people in power who need to be called out. But reading this book changed my impression of him for the worse. He is truly unlikable, but he's completely unaware of that fact. In fact, he appears to possess no self awareness. He preaches about the evils of Washington and talks as though he is the voice of reason and justice. He's hypocritical and transparent, and it takes away from the good points he does make. Early on he tells a story about being SO shocked when a Congressman wanted to trade votes in order to get a project in his district, but then he does things that are horribly worse than that without batting an eye. He never had a problem with anything until he got into trouble and even now his preachiness seems so self-serving. And he is constantly referencing how devoutly religious he is. He clearly missed the Commandment to "have no other god before Me" because there is so much self-worship in his book. He says, "The charitable giving was good for my soul, but it soon became something of an addiction." Spending money (and finding new and creative ways to make it) seemed to be his real addiction.
Additionally, there is no big message in this book about how to fix government. In the very last pages of the book he does list his dream reforms (which is his first and only attempt at discussing reform of any kind). Some points he makes are very valid, but others make no sense and would only serve to place more power in the hands of fewer people. And if Abramoff had his way, someone who was a paid intern for Congress when they were in college or worked as a district staffer in his/her 20s could never lobby for the rest of his/her life. I find this ironic considering Abramoff never worked a day in Congress, and yet he was one of the worst offenders when it came to ethics violations and corruption. But that is one of his "solutions" to the corruption that he represented in Washington. Also he'll gush (literally) about Tom DeLay and his total disdain for President Clinton because DeLay can't tolerate any dishonesty, but then Abramoff makes excuses when President Bush lies about knowing him or even meeting him. He lacks consistency in the judgment he is so quick to dispense. Abramoff also strongly criticizes Senator McCain for being a narcissist while remaining completely blind to his own narcissism.
His book does show a lot of what is wrong with politics and government - and Abramoff was a big part of that. But this book is simply Jack Abramoff's side of the story. It's no great message of redemption. If you love politics or have a strong interest in it or in government, this book is definitely worth a read. However, do not expect it to be full of deep insights because he's not a deep thinker. His story is one that needs to be heard because a lot of it has not been covered by the mainstream media (and it really needs to be), but I believe his story would be better told by someone else in the form of a biography as opposed to being spun by self-absorbed him in an autobiography. I don't question his facts, just his focus. I think his self-centered presentation could make it easier for his detractors (as well as the people who didn't want to be called out) to discredit the valid points he makes.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 11, 2011 12:20:19 AM PST
Richard Carpenter says:
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2011 8:55:11 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2011 4:52:36 PM PST
Aware that he is unlikable? I wasn't sure if "..." meant you had more to ask or what your question is. Yes, I would not have written that statement if I found him to be likable. I started reading his book expecting to like him. I was interested in the subject matter, and I wanted to read the insights he had to share, having worked on Capitol Hill and knowing some of the people he talks about. I don't disagree with his take on lots of things. It's not his take on things that detracts from the book -- it's his take on himself. When one writes an autobiography, you hope for some genuine self-reflection. One wonders if he would have ever shown any contrition if he had not gotten into trouble. It seems, based on this book, he would have just kept on doing what he was doing. And yet he weaves how devoutly religious he is through the entire book. How addicted he is to charitable giving and how no one appears to appreciate how generous he is. At one point he briefly mentions he shamed his religion, but that's once, and he immediately moves on from it to brag on himself some more and judge others. Everyone knows the type of insecure person who feels a need to constantly brag on themselves. I expected there to be more depth to Abramoff. I'm not a person who started reading his book thinking he was a villain (like he says so many other people made him out to be). Quite the contrary in fact. But after reading him write page after page about how great he is, what a victim he was, how everyone turned on him, his subjective judgments of everyone that he states as fact, etc. with no genuine or deep examination of his own key role in everything, this book quickly changed my view of him. In fact, the little acknowledgment at all of his own role seems to be an afterthought and, not coincidentally, comes at the end of the book. As I said, I don't think he's a villain. I didn't before, and I don't now. But I do think he's a shallow person who is self-absorbed, inconsistently judgmental (contrary to what the Bible teaches re: "judge not"), too often self-righteous, and hypocritical. As a result of all this and more that I only discovered from reading his own words, I find him to be unlikable.
Posted on Nov 11, 2011 10:20:37 AM PST
P. Hartung says:
Anna, since your review was the only non-five-star one in the lot (as of 11/11/11) I thought it had merit since it avoided the love fest. You had me fairly sympathetic to your views through two paragraphs, but then you just kept repeating...and repeating...and repeating the same critique til the very end. Good grief. Your three stars are hollow and serve as a one star review. Next time, try to give examples of your positive feelings about the book rather than make cursory reference to them. The lack of balance says more about the reviewer than the book in question.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2011 10:46:34 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2011 6:53:33 AM PST
I hear your point, and I agree with you. Repetition can detract from your message. Have you had a chance to read the book yet? Because the problem for me was that the book just kept getting worse (and my review kept getting longer in my mind as I kept reading). Abramoff never let up with his bragging (although he was better in his childhood stories), and the more I read, the more I thought to write. The presentation had a tendency to blind me to the good. Also, I think because so many other reviews raved so much about it and/or made the book out to be something I did not find it to be, I wrote way too detailed of a review.
Plus, the more I read him judge and belittle other people while praising himself at the same time, the harder it became to limit my review. A lot of times it's easier to write more than it is to decide what to edit. But I agree with you. I would be well served by some good editing. Also, there really are not specific examples of positive feelings I could include. I tried to explain why I found the book worth reading and stated that I don't regret reading it. The positive of the book is the subject matter as a whole -- the insider's view from his perspective and the gossipy tidbits. But there is not much from his writing that I could single out as an example of my positive feelings, or I definitely would have and just made my already too long review that much longer. I did find his life outside of politics (childhood, Hollywood) to be quite interesting, more than I would have anticipated because my interests lie more with politics. Perhaps not coincidentally those times are also when he seemed to actually take a break from all the self-love. Also, his insights into the justice system were interesting to me as well.
UPDATE: I took your words to heart and edited my review. My review is still too long, but at least it's not AS long (although now this response is way too long). :) I removed some things plus the paragraphs I've now included below -- Abramoff's writing is bad, too, and his choice of words is very telling. He loves to use lots of words like "perfidy" (and "perfidious"), "truckling", "unctuous", "gambol", "stratagem", etc. I love the English language, but seriously? I think he thinks those words make him look brilliant, but instead they reveal how pretentious he is. At one point he says of his nine-year-old son: "Daniel, thinking he could help this poor Luddite president," told President Bush he needed to get email. I'm sure his nine-year-old son was thinking about how "he could help this poor Luddite president." Isn't that how all nine-year-olds think? And when Abramoff called George Clooney "feckless," that word didn't even fit with the description it appears he was trying to make. (And, no offense, but Clooney was telling a joke. If Abramoff is that thin skinned, he was in the wrong profession. I completely understand his being protective of his daughter, but he seems to get more upset and angered by Clooney's joke than he does at being labeled a convicted felon, which I'm sure was more upsetting to his children).
Abramoff is a big complainer, about big things and very little things. I agree with a good number of his points, but the way he so self-righteously makes them really takes away from the points he's trying to make. Even when his "friend" cons him out of all his savings (threatening his ability to provide for his family) over an extended period of time, he simply talks about it factually without any self-examination or any judgment of his own role in this happening to him. Yet when it comes to other people, he doesn't hesitate to judge and criticize. Some of these people are certainly deserving of criticism. His total disdain for and disgust wtih Newt Gingrich actually surprised me. But after reading pages of Abramoff brag on himself, it gets old to read his preaching about other people. In spite of his constant complaining, I did like reading little tidbits and stories I didn't know about the various people he names (and often name drops) in the book. Later in the book, when referencing that same friend who conned him, he shows what a big person he is (yet again) by talking about how he pities his friend and describing him as having "a great capacity to compartmentalize and an unlimited capacity for self-delusion." Abramoff seems totally unaware that he just described himself perfectly.
I found many of his stories interesting and informative, and even though I had to take breaks from the book to get away from the Abramoff self-love-fest, I was never tempted not to finish reading the book despite his bad delivery and pompousness. Some of the book and many of his stories ARE interesting, but he is not. He is shallow and devoid of real self examination. He wants to talk about what all is wrong with Washington while talking nonstop about how wonderful he is throughout the book. Does the man not own a mirror? He is very self righteous while being inconsistently judgmental at the same time, which is a bad combination. After reading the book, it's obvious he has a superiority-inferiority complex. He feels superior to anyone he disagrees with or competes with and more. He feels superior to most people, in fact. But it's obvious he feels inferior and is insecure, too, or he wouldn't have such a need to constantly overcompensate by bragging on himself and building himself up throughout the book. This does not a great book make.
Also, in the two days after I wrote this review, I was talking to two friends and told them I'd just read the Abramoff book. Both of them used to work in the U.S. Senate - one decades ago but he's maintained strong friendships from those days, and the other still lives in D.C. but he left Capitol Hill to work in public relations a few years back. Neither of them have read the book yet, but they said my impressions of him from the book were true to all the things they'd heard about him from others with firsthand experience with him. They said he did not have a good rep in D.C. and was viewed as a flash in the pan, focusing on buying people with lavish entertainment, limos and trips rather than building solid relationships. I'd never talked to either of them about him before I read the book, but I found that interesting because my view of Abramoff from the book matched what they'd always been told about him from people who worked with him (Ds and Rs).
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2011 11:57:11 AM PST
citizen fact checker says:
P. Hartung: I, for one, like to learn from reviews and comments, and I am impressed by your comment. In your response to Anna Marie you state your point of view kindly and wisely. Thank you.
One is never too old to learn -- a cliche that is right on. Again, thanks.
Posted on Nov 24, 2011 8:02:10 PM PST
Jane Doee says:
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 26, 2011 5:24:04 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 26, 2011 12:42:46 PM PST
Thanks for your comment. And I am sorry if I made you defensive and feel like you need to stand up for Jack Abramoff from your reading about his childhood years. I just wanted to encourage you to keep reading. His D.C. days are when the narcissism strongly emerges. As you can see from my comment above, I didn't see it in his childhood days either -- "I did find his life outside of politics (childhood, Hollywood) to be quite interesting, more than I would have anticipated because my interests lie more with politics. Perhaps not coincidentally those times are also when he seemed to actually take a break from all the self-love." I wrote my review and subsequent comments after I finished reading Jack Abramoff's book. Also, in my review I said his book is worth reading and encouraged people to read it for themselves.
I just was taken aback at how unlikable and self-focused he portrays himself and by how contradictory he is. Devoutly religious (and proud of it -- he wears his religion on his sleeve) and yet driven by money - and finding the most creative ways to make and spend it and make more so he can spend more. Also, wherever he goes to work it seems (at D.C. firms), the people don't live up to his standards. Highly judgmental for someone who is a poster child for unethical lobbying, Abramoff tried to buy relationships (trips to Scotland, etc.) rather than building them. These are the actions of a self-centered shallow person rather than a thoughtful person of substance. But I read the entire book and, as I said, am glad I did.
Also, talking about oneself does not make someone a narcissist. In all autobiographies (I read a lot of them), people talk about themselves. That's what an autobiography is. But because you get a firsthand often intimate account of a person's life, in a good autobiography, you really connect to the person and grow to like them -- even people who have had problems in life (and sometimes them more than others). His writing about himself in no way makes Abramoff a narcissist. It is what he writes that does. His talking about how much smarter, more godly, harder working and wiser he is than his co-workers and others (and a preoccupation with how much better), how self-sacrificing and generous to a fault he perceives himself as being (while seemingly oblivious to his own consuming greed), his inconsistently judging others (often very harshly) without judging himself (or others he likes) by the same standards, his self-centeredness, etc., all play a role in his being a narcissist.
I really don't think you get an accurate portrayal of a person by choosing to base your opinion of his entire life and - and needing to defend him on that basis - from a few chapters about his childhood. Any medical professional would say you need more than a hour or two (or a book for that matter) to accurately judge a person. And he may be completely different in real life. But the person you get a sense of from the pages of his own book is a narcissist. Also, Abramoff has no problem with labeling Senator McCain (a man for whom JA has total disdain) as a narcissist, so I didn't have a problem with calling Jack Abramoff as I saw him from reading his book. My review is just my opinion. Nothing more. I'm not trying to medically diagnose the man; I'm just relating how he came across to me in his book.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2011 4:45:45 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 27, 2011 4:46:49 AM PST
Jane Doee says:
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2011 5:29:36 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 27, 2011 6:27:17 AM PST
I don't have any "deep imbedded dislike for this guy" in the way you mean it. If I did, I wouldn't be encouraging people to buy the book and read it for themselves, which I have, more than once. I said I was glad I bought and read the book, and I wrote "But read the book and judge for yourself." A review is MY opinion, not my medical diagnosis, etc. I didn't find him unlikable in every part of the book. There were parts where I found he took a break from the self-love fest (as I've said) -- his childhood, Hollywood days, times in prison, etc. But his time in D.C. -- the critical time -- was filled with how much better he was than everyone else and judgments of others without any study of himself. And I find him unlikable taken from the book as a whole. Again, that's my opinion based on my experience with and reading of the book.
There are many books available about the Republican Party, politics and government. Abramoff gives insight into one window of things, from his perspective. The fact the mainstream media hasn't covered the issues he raises is another reason I am glad he wrote his book (as I said). I still maintain that a less self-centered egotistical presentation would be more effective in communicating the information. I want the information he discusses to be covered more, but I think his presentation of the facts will unfortunately make that less likely to happen, not more. With only 21 reviews on this book after all the promotion of it, it appears people aren't reading it like I had hoped (and had assumed) they would. After all, nearly half of those reviews (9) were written the very day the book was released. I also wanted to note that my comments on Jack Abramoff are less harsh than most of the ways he describes a lot of the people in his life -- from Newt Gingrich and John McCain to President Clinton and Abramoff's own business partners and many more. He is belittling of people, with a double standard.
I was simply sharing my opinion, after reading his book, which is what reviews are for doing -- for sharing your personal opinion and experience from reading a book or using a product with others to help them make informed decisions for themselves. That is why anyone can and should write a review; the more information and opinions people have, the better able they are to decide for themselves. I also wanted to write a review because, when I bought the book, all the reviews (12) were five-star unconditional raves of the book, gushing about Abramoff, all of which I personally thought were contrary to what I found when I read the entire book. But I didn't post comments below all those other reviews. I wrote my own review to share my thoughts with other readers. If you feel so strongly about him, why don't you just write your own review and share your opinion of the book? That would be helpful to other readers who are deciding whether or not to purchase and read the book.
Posted on Nov 27, 2011 8:09:12 AM PST
Terri Olsen says:
Couldn't agree with you more. It is just the same song he has been singing..."I am doing good things for America". He needs to bow out and let America heal from the damage he has already created. After reading his column in the "World Net Daily" just one question how is it that he is crying broke when his wife wants to know where her Step-Father's furniture went to in an Estate sale, so she could buy it back?