The political book of the yearSeptember 22, 2008
I just finished reading The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry that Defined a Generation by Steven Gillon. It is the best political book I have read in a long time. If you are interested in recent history and how Washington works, I can't recommend it enough.
The book tells the story of how Clinton and Gingrich rose to power. It touches again and again on how similar the two men were personally, despite their political differences. The core of the book is the story of how the two became more and more reliant on one another to accomplish big goals. They grew to respect their opponent and spoke and met frequently. And in 1996, fresh from recent successes and with a booming economy and tax surpluses, they worked behind-the-scenes (and against the wishes of their staffs or without their knowledge) to form a new coalition that reached across party lines and appealed to the center of the country. This coalition was to first tackle the problems in social security, followed by Medicare and Medicaid. Tragically, the Lewinsky scandal broke a month before this was to be set in motion at the State of the Union. Both men were forced to abandon any signs of cooperation as the impeachment battle began.
What is truly fascinating, and equally sad, is how little interest there is in Washington to accomplish anything. The focus is almost entirely on gaining and maintaining power, and scoring political points against the other party at every opportunity. The Democratic leaders in the House and Senate did not want Clinton to work the Republican congress to pass anything - it would deprive them of campaign issues. Similarly, the right of the Republican Party was actually very frustrated with Gingrich's cooperation with Clinton, and insisted that he fight him every step of the way rather than compromise. And because so many congressional districts have been drawn in such a way as to eliminate competition, few congressman have any incentive to moderate their views.
I promise you will learn a great deal from this book and enjoy the experience.