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THE POWER GAME How Washington Works by Hedrick Smith (Ballantine Books: $5.95)

June 11, 1989|ELENA BRUNET

Hedrick Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, went to Washington in 1962 to work in the New York Times' Washington bureau.

He writes in this volume that he has witnessed "a stunning transformation" in the last 15 years, not only in the increase in numbers of staff members and lobbyists, but in the methods of operation. Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974 marks the "new congressional assertiveness against the presidency, (and) the revolt within Congress against the seniority system."

Most significant is the rise in importance of television in the merchandising of candidates. This trend has produced "a new generation of video politicians whose medium was the tube rather than the political clubhouse."

"At the presidential level, there is a mismatch between the talents needed for campaigning and the skills needed for governing," Smith writes. "Political amateurism in the White House is one product of a primary system that rewards anti-Washington showmanship more than it does a proven capacity to forge the coalitions necessary to govern."

"The Power Game" is a comprehensive expose of the machinations of political power in our nation's capital. The numerous anecdotes in this best seller make for sometimes disconcerting, but always entertaining reading.

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