- 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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,149,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point 1st Edition
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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to provide affordable, universal health coverage brilliantly illuminates why so many people believe that the government no longer represents them.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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Top customer reviews
Regardless, The System is a must-read for anyone who wants to see American politics as it really exists.
The key is found in the intro, where the authors define "The System" that rules USAmerica -- which includes the Presidency, the Congress, the media ... AHH! The fact that they think the media is part of the govt., just not elected, is itself worth the price of this volume.
Taken in this vein, it is quite good. We must have a national health system like a European country's , because ... well, because they feel embarrassed that we aren't like Europe. That the U.S. was settled, predominantly, by people who WANTED NOT TO LIVE IN EUROPE is unimportant to Johnson and Broder, who know better than to take the this self-govt. nonsense seriously.
What is serious is that the USAmerican public rejects 'socialized medicine.' So instead Clinton wrapped it up in his mess of a bill, and then tried to scare us into panic over our health care, saying the system would collapse if we didn't give control of it to the govt. Not true, and Johnson & Broder know it, but hey, can't let truth stand in the way of ruling.
Frequently THE SYSTEM is unintentionally funny, too, as when the authors take a break from reporting the `horse race' political aspects of the story to criticize the media for concentrating on the `horse race' instead of the policy substance, after which they trash the only attempt ever made to discuss the policy substance (Elizabeth McCaughey's famous piece in The New Republic) and go back to reporting the horse race. You sort of wonder if they read their own manuscript.
But have some sympathy. They do mention the policy substance from time to time -- our rulers think we spend far too much money on foolish things like attempting to save the lives of premature infants. Those resources should go to more important things, like health care for "homeless, drug abusing gay and bisexual men of color." I mean, would you want to defend THAT openly?
It's also very useful in assessing the nature of liberal bias in the press. The last chapter of the hardcover first edition, on sale in 1996, told us about good Pres. Clinton's attempts to `save' the federal budget before runaway health care spending wrecked it, and evil House Speaker Newt Gingrich's attempts to `cut health care spending,' when in both cases they were trying to do the same thing -- cut the rate at which spending on health care would increase in the future. That's one way you bias coverage -- describing things in such a way as to create the desired reaction, which in this case was to get us to run out and vote Democratic.
The last chapter of this paperback edition mentions the Kassenbaum-Kennedy bill, passed by Congress and signed by Clinton. All mention of it was carefully left out of the first edition. That's another way of biasing coverage -- leave out the `unimportant' stuff that might confuse the citizenry.
And if you practice your critical thinking skills as you read, you will learn a lot about the chaotic way Clinton ran his administration, how the Democrats lost control of the House after twenty straight wins, why the bill was so complex, and other fascinating stuff.
What you won't learn how the Clinton health plan would have worked, of course. Obviously, they were afraid of your reaction if you found out. That is probably the most important information in the book.
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.