Home Up Introduction Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three







  • Americans are a nation of game players.
  • Seems natural to look at how Washington really works as a power game.
  • Washington power game has been altered by many factors:
    • Congressional assertiveness against the presidency
    • The revolt within Congress against the seniority system
    • Television
    • The merchandising of candidates
    • The explosion of special interest politics
    • The demands of political fundraising
    • The massive growth of staff power
    • Changes in voters
  • Presidents now have much greater difficulty marshalling governing coalitions.
  • The new breed of senators and House members play video politics, a different game from the old inside, backroom politics of Congress.
  • Party labels mean much less now to voters and to many candidates.
  • Power floats.
  • The power game has unwritten rules, rituals, customs and patterns that explain why certain things happen in Washington.
  • Washington is as much moved by who’s up and who’s down, who’s in and who’s out, as it is by setting policy.
  • Politicians pursue the interests of their home team-their constituents, but they also hotly pursue their highly personal interests in the inside power games.
    • Turf games
    • Access games
    • Career games
    • Money games
    • Blame games
  • Each of these has an inner logic of its own that often diverts officeholders away from the single minded pursuit of the best policy.
  • Congress is the principal policy arena of battle.
  • People there compete, take sides, form teams, and when one action is finished, the teams dissolve, and members form new sides for the next issues.
  • Politicians use sports analogies all the time.
  • Political reporters are like sportswriters, indulging in political locker room talk.
  • The Washington power game is not one game, but an olympiad of games, going on simultaneously, all over town.
  • There are advantages for those who understand the rules of the games.
  • The lessons of the game apply from one administration to the next.
  • In Washington, unlike the military or industry, power is not hierarchical.
  • Persuasion works better than unilateral policy pronouncements.
  • Command is less effective than consensus.
  • What is power?