*Congress and the Shaping of the Middle East*

That is the new Kirk J. Beattie book, and I find it one of the very best studies on how Washington actually works; I am less interested in the determinants of Middle East policy per se.  Here is one bit:

On the Senate side, I got the distinct impression that the constituents are not, in general, as important to senators as they are to House members.  One gets the distinct impression that individuals with financial clout are far more likely to get senators’ attention than others.  As one staffer put it, “If you’re talking to me, you’re talking about money.  People are not coming to these issues for the first time.  But for us, where our constituents are is very marginal.”  That said, a small number of well-heeled individuals can get senators’ attention in many but certainly not all cases.  The bias here runs distinctly in favor of putative supporters of Israel.  While other religious or ethno-religious factors are in play, like the size and strength of a senator’s evangelical community, senators appear to be less concerned about these voices, unless of course the senator either shares or sees utility in that perspective.  This parallels views held by House staffers, leaving one to think that evangelical senators’ commitment to Israel exceeds the level of pro-Israel concern by the evangelical masses.

Among other virtues, the book offers a new (to me) channel for how money might affect politics.  Even if donors cannot “buy positions” from politicians, the need to stay competitive in a more or less zero-sum fundraising game means that Congressional staff do not have enough time to study or learn issues very well, and thus depend all the more on outside sources of information.

Definitely recommended, you can buy it here.


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