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AND I QUOTE / What Political Books Are Saying : SHOWDOWN: The Struggle Between the Gingrich Congress and the Clinton White House, By Elizabeth Drew (Simon & Schuster: $25; 375 pp.)

March 24, 1996|John Balzar

"Gingrich had always understood that the struggle over the budget would be the most important--and the most perilous--stage in the [Republican] revolution. The dry figures that Congress and the president would clash over would define the role of government. The budget reached into every recess of the government; it set policy in thousands of areas. The budget battle was where most of the political differences would be settled."

So--snap!--you awake from your coma. Right away you ask: Whatever happened in the 104th Congress anyway? Despair not. This New Yorker writer has recorded it all: the meetings, tantrums, whispers, memos, histrionics and petty tactics, as the over-inflated gas-bags at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue duel to a climactic . . . draw.

One more thing: Drew is legendary for letting no detail pass. All this book lacks is a scratch-and-sniff page to be the perfect reminder that sausage -making is stinky business when the President comes from one party and Congress from another.

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