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The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point
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The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  114 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
Taking as an example the Clinton health care reform initiative, the authors show how a policy that aimed to please everyone ended by satisfying no one due to pressure groups, political gamesmanship and the inertia of the American 'system'.
Paperback, 704 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Back Bay Books (first published 1996)
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Greg Brozeit
In what I consider to be one of the best books ever written on American politics and public policy, Johnson and Broder describe the intricate and sad story of why the U.S. didn't get universal health care in 1994. For those who care to actually understand why history matters, this provides a great insight into the myth of Hillary Clinton and how she helped squander the promise of real progress.

In retrospect, among the particularly galling lessons of this account is that the Affordable Care Act (
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: school
Oh my god, this has got to be one of THE most boring books I've ever read. It's just bad writing. The subject is interesting. Example of good writing but a topic that bored me: "Showdown at Gucci Gulch." I was bored out of my mind by Regan's tax reform by the end, but... at least I MADE it to the end, given the writing was so bad! I don't recommend The System unless you are enthralled with the ins and outs of the Clinton Healthcare Plan. Then you might not care about the poor writing.
David Kaufman
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
ok, this is kind of a hard core health policy book. but it's also probably the best description of how politics and policy really work in the real world. it's the story of the clinton health plan and how/why it bombed. reading this now, it's amazing that to think that hillary is the the presidential frontrunner. there's a pretty good argument (and it's one these guys make) that she was almost singlehandedly responsible for republican control of congress from 1994-2006. also, it's crazy how far t ...more
Grindy Stone
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the old saws with presidential politics is that, if a president wants to make his or her mark, the best way to pull it off is with foreign policy, as there are too many special interests represented by too many politicians to accomplish anything domestically. If anyone doubts that truism, he would do well to read this book, which does a great job of explaining why health care in the US could use some reform as well as with how it tells the story of the Clinton Administration's efforts to ...more
Aug 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A very solid, reported examination of the Clinton administration's 1993-1994 effort to enact comprehensive health care reform. I wish I had read it last spring though, so much of the current health care fight parallels that fight.

One annoying tick I noticed in the book was that Broder and Johnson referred Clinton as the first Democratic president since LBJ to do one thing another. There was only one Dem president between LBJ and Clinton! Clinton wasn't breaking some kind of historical trend by s
Apr 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
The book I read to try to prepare myself for what it really might be like to work on Capitol Hill. It was a good introduction to the outsized personalities, committees of jurisdiction and interest groups with influence in all their glory, all tossing their weight around. I mean, it's early 1990's wrangling over health care policy, what could be better???
May 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Although a foreboding tome, this is an incredibly readable account of the Clinton health plan and its inevitable demise in 1993. Reads like a novel. If you like "West Wing" you'll probably like this dramatic rendering how politics (doesn't) work.
Jun 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
A really great account of Bill and Hillary Clinton's attempt in his first term to pass universal health care. What really stood out...though the authors bemoaned the lack of bipartisanship, it is clear from the recent health care votes that it has only gotten worse.
Jun 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Covers the back room politics of the Clintons' failed '93 health reform. Liked it both from the political game coverage (especially the unreal tactics of special interests) as well as learning about health reform. Recommended.
Mar 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: healthcare
I love this book. Anyone who wants an in-depth analysis of the Clintons' pursuit of universal health care in 1993-1994 needs to read it. Just re-read it from cover to cover and can't wait for someone to write the memoirs of the Obama effort.
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a worthwhile read for those interested in health care reform and the political process. Ultimately a frustrating, yet incredibly informative book.
Polly Callahan
Aug 15, 2011 marked it as to-read
pick up with chapter 7
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Lessons learned? Let's hope the Obama administration takes away this lesson: don't neglect Congress when you're writing the policy. Let there be no war room for the new health care plan.
Matt Simmons
Aug 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This might make the list of the top 10 books about politics that I can't live without.
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In his four decades in journalism, Mr. Johnson was widely esteemed for his coverage of domestic affairs in general and of the capital in particular.

More about Haynes Johnson