Fri 27 Apr, 2012 10:37 am
Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Dead Certain, the definitive book about the Bush Presidency, a revealing and riveting look at the new House of Representatives, elected in the history-making 2010 midterm elections.
About the Author
Robert Draper is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and National Geographic and a correspondent to GQ. He is the author of several books, most recently the New York Times bestseller Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush. He lives in Washington D.C.
By Moore Family
This new book genuinely confirms my worst fears about the decay of our government through the last five Congressional sessions. I listened to a detailed preview and interview about Do Not Ask What Good We Do through online and cable news recently. As a proud non-partisan Independent, born out of 6 generations of Republicans, I now fear greatly for our nation. Moreover, Robert Draper's book underscores how a relatively small radical segment of the Republican Party is now trying to secretly diminish and seemly dismantle our "We the people" government simply for their narrow short-term election year power gains. Behind what appears to be the necessary checks and balances by Congressional governance, it's now really all about winning elections, staying in office, making money, agitating class warfare, political distractions, coded rhetoric, and setting-up to win the next election to make more money. Has anyone ever asked themselves if we really want "less government," then does the trillions of our tax dollars dollars we pay remain in their pockets -- can you say what "taxation without representation" means now? Clearly, Mr. Draper's book title is perfect for our times. Ironically, the GOP started out as an anti-slavery, socioeconomic rights and political equality party in the 1850s when we were a young nation and a very divided republic -- including our national "birth defect" of slavery and various forms of racial terrorism, according to former (Republican) U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Having read Grand Old Party by Lewis L. Gould, Thaddeus Stevens: Nineteenth Century Egalitarian by Hans L. Trefousse, American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia by Bruce Frohnen, Jeremy Beer and Jeffrey O. Nelson, and Alfred Blumrosen's Slave Nation book (truly must-reads), greatly enhanced what Mr. Draper is detailing. The bottom line: today's GOP brand has been mostly body-snatched by self-serving special interest parasites. The strategy of pre-emptive politics and fear mongering for short-term gains is the new status quo -- the divide and conquer tactic. Regardless of your political leanings, I hope many will read Do Not Ask What Good We Do during, before and beyond election day. I definitely will -- just as I will still pay taxes, and vote people in or out of office -- even if I'm possibly the last rat on potentially sinking ship.
Review By Todd Bartholomew
Bashing Congress is hardly new, as Robert Draper quickly points out. Complaints from within and without date back to the early days of our Republic and certainly everything here is hardly a newsflash from a Congress that not only has the lowest public opinion in history, but seems hell bent on driving it still further downwards. Dysfunctional Congresses and partisan politics are likewise nothing new, but what is stunning is the access that Draper is given by members of the 112th Congress and that Draper is willing to serve it up, warts and all. Most reporters and members of the media are so timid and afraid of saying what is REALLY going on out of fear that their access to politicians will be cut off. As a result they apparently willingly acquiesce and will only cite "unnamed sources" or will heavily water down what true news they do report so as not to offend. That is NOT the case with Draper as he names names and says what was really going on behind the scenes during the current (112th) Congress, some of which points out why opinion polls rank them so poorly. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat you'll find much to agree with and much that will shock you as politicians in both parties come off very badly.
Some of the shots Draper takes are obvious ones, like the idiotic hubris of Rep. Anthony Weiner, who got what he deserved. Draper skewers Weiner ruthlessly here and takes no prisoners on either side of the aisle. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi is revealed as despised by members of her own party for forcing unpopular votes on vulnerable members in the 111th Congress that cost many their seats in the 2010 elections. President Obama comes in for criticism from congressmen for his unwillingness to lead or to use his political capital to advance causes near and dear to his heart. The right's criticism of Obama "leading from behind" frequently came to mind and Draper lays things out with a crispness and conciseness he demonstrated in his columns for Politico and the New York Post. Republicans take the heat as well, with many, including key leaders, demonstrating a fundamental failure to grasp basic economics which clearly hampered negotiations during the budget debates and beyond. The ubiquity and mindlessness of talking points is thrown up for the ridicule it deserves with many members unwilling to deviate from their party's line or to show any original or creative thinking.
On balance neither party comes off well, and if anything reading "Do Not Ask..." will diminish and degrade any lingering respect you may have had for Congress, congressmen, and our current two-party system. Draper's expose also indirectly exposes how the media keeps our society under-informed and underserved, serving to play off our existing partisan divide. I found myself thinking of the comment Garry Marshall's character Stan Lansing on "Murphy Brown" about "politics is a game of three card monte designed to distract everyone while everything goes to hell". By turns depressing, dispiriting, and saddening, "Do Not Ask..." points out the inadequacy of our current system and sadly it doesn't offer any solutions. That is left for the reader to determine. "Do Not Ask..." will certainly prove popular on the Sunday talk shows, with the 99% crowd and Tea Party supporters. What they do with it remains to be seen.
Review By Loyd E. Eskildson
Among the GOP's 2010 new majority (gain of 44 seats, to 242) were 87 freshmen, many with Tea Party backing. Nearly one-third of these freshmen had never held prior elective office, though some had worked for other Congressmen. The eventual result - a 9% approval rating for Congress. Draper's book tells readers why, as well as covering the Gabriell Giffords tragedy, Anthony Weiner's hubris and self-destructive behavior, and Nancy Pelosi's sometimes strange leadership actions.
Prior to the 2010 election the Democrats seemed focused on anything but the floundering economy. After passing a $787 billion stimulus bill (that accomplished little), much of the rest of the 11th Congress under Speaker Pelosi focused on a cap and trade energy bill that had no chance of getting through the Senate (some of the largest donors for the Democratic Party were environmentalists), and then health care. (Even the White House asked Pelosi to take up health care first.) Subsequent Republican attack ads paired hapless Democratic members with Speaker Pelosi, taking the line of 'X voted with her 86% of the time,' ignoring the fact that many of those votes were simply procedural topics such as whether to adjourn for the day. Even after the disastrous 2010 loss, Pelosi insisted on then running for (and winning) Minority Leader, allowing the Republicans to repeat the process in the 2012 vs. the surviving Democrats.
Democrat John Dingel was the 'dean' of the House, having served for 44 years, was Chairman of the Environment Committee, and opposed the cap-and-trade proposal - probably because he represented the Detroit area. Pelosi replaced him with supporter Henry Waxman to get the proposal moving. (Both sides replaced those judged as 'non-team players' that were in leadership roles.)
Getting even Democratic support to pass ObamaCare was difficult for Pelosi. Some wanted the emphasis on cost-cutting, others on universal coverage; some wanted to break the bill up into pieces so it was more easily understandable.
Draper also tells us that the 'morning hour debate' featured on CNN is a charade the features a few repeaters jockeying for air time. Few actually attended these usually sessions. He also reminds us that our government has been funded by 'continuing resolution' for over three years - no budget has been passed due to stalemates. Also the loud noise about earmarks is exposed - they represent less than 2% of all federal spending.
'Do Not Ask What Good We Do' ends with members preparing to attend Obama's State of the Union address on 1/24/2012.
There's interesting material in the book, however, there's also an awful lot of not too useful filler.