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Thursday, April 26, 2012

We're With Nobody by Alan Huffman & Michael Rejebian

We're With Nobody by Alan Huffman & Michael Rejebian
Published by William Morrow ISBN 978-0-06-201577-8
Trade paperback $15.99

I've always been interested in politics and in my opinion The West Wing was one of the best television shows of all time, so I was intrigued by the new book We're With Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics.

Written by two journalists-turned-political-opposition researchers, Alan Huffman and Michael Rejebian, the book recounts their work digging up information on politicians, from US Senate hopefuls to local school board candidates.

The men tell their story in alternate chapters, but the gist of it is that they travel to local government offices to gather information that is supposed to be available to anyone who asks, i.e. voting records, tax records, court documents, etc. One big take-away from this book is that people who work in these government offices are frequently reluctant to share this information, even though it is their job to do so.

Time after time, the researchers have to cajole, flatter, and sometimes get indignant to get the information they need. The first question that is usually asked of them is "Who are you with?", thus leading to the title of the book. Their answer, more often than not, is "none of your business."

The government employees often stall, and the researchers have been followed back to their hotel and verbally threatened to go "back where they came from." This book reinforces the often-held opinion that government employees are uncooperative.

The men state that they are "guided, more or less, by the conviction that no one is fit to lead unless proven otherwise." They see themselves as "seekers of the truth." They believe that discovering the truth is"more crucial than ever, when today's news is prone to distortion, willful ignorance and lies."

I loved this quote: "Truth is a word that should never be qualified. It's like pregnancy; it's yes or no", and they quote Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who supposedly said "everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his facts." Amen to that!

One of the more interesting incidents happened when they talked to the ex-wife of a candidate they were researching. They were looking about information about his business dealings, of which she had none. In the course of conversation, she complained that he never took her anywhere, but he takes his new girlfriend everywhere, and that he was arrested for beating the girlfriend up in an airport.

That piece of information might be useful. She said it happened on vacation, so Michael found out where they vacationed, pulled out a map, checked possible routes, and proceeded to call airports to ask about arrest reports. After many, many phone calls, he finds the report.

That information is passed along to a friend of the man, who takes the report to the candidate and shows it to him. The candidate withdrew from the running.

The men say that finding information on politicians, such as who donated to the campaigns, and who benefits from their votes is important. They state "the same type of systemic abuse that results in poorly built sidewalks in an out-of-the-way township resulted in the failed federal response to Hurricane Katrina." I'm not sure I totally buy that, but it is something to ponder.

They don't name names, although the reader is able to figure out that they did research on US Senate hopeful Christine O'Donnell and Sarah Palin.

Political junkies will enjoy this fascinating look at a part of the political process that is usually done under the cover of darkness, and has been done since the time of Caesar. The subject is interesting and timely in this election year, and you will look at political ads in a different light after reading this book.

rating 3 of 5

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