Friday, May 16, 2008

Pennsylvania Avenue

John Harwood and Gerald Seib, who write for the NY Times and the WSJ respectively, have written a book called Pennsylvania Avenue, which provides a series of profiles about power brokers in todays Washington DC. The book's meta-story is that DC is intensely gridlocked and that certain actors like lobbyists, fundraisers and finally cooperative Congressfolk are finding ways to bridge gaps and get work done in the city.

The book consists of a series of profiles of actors who find ways to make things work. Some like Ken Duberstein are directly involved in policies and making them happen. Others like David Rubenstein, founder of the Carlyle Group and Lea Berman, the social secretary, show more of how things happen, as opposed to how compromise is found, in the City. The Rubenstein story is illustrative about how money has gained greater power in DC and the Berman story is centered on a state visit from China and the wide range of protocol and signaling that takes place in a state dinner.

The authors have a lot of experience in DC and clearly have a lot of access. They interview all of the people in the book and get their viewpoint on a wide range of issues. Reading Karl Rove's take on politics is interesting, and good to read in his own words. I also liked the optimistic stories of ideological enemies finding ways to work together in Congress. This book will have the greatest appeal to political junkies who want an insider's look at how things are actually accomplished in the city. Those with only a cursory interest will find less in this book.

You can listen to both of them talking to Diane Rehm here.

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