MixedThe Washington PostThe author, a seasoned health-care reporter, demonstrates sourcing and meticulous research that usher readers inside a lot of rooms where federal health policy was debated and decided during more than the 10 years of the book’s title. Yet Cohn is so wedded to the steady cadence of his chronology that he seldom lingers to reflect on truly revealing or portentous moments...while giving equal weight to nuances and subplots that only an ardent policy wonk might savor ... I wonder whether some readers might feel a bit overwhelmed ... many...characters appear only once or twice in the 334 pages of text. Even for those who recur, Cohn shows us their actions far more than the meaning for them of the events in which they are players ... It would have been nice if the story offered more...interior views across its pages ... Perhaps the most impressive feat of this detailed retelling is that Cohn gets virtually everything right ... Cohn’s work is impressive, too, in its fundamental fairness ... for all the main actors and bit players in the ACA wars to whom we are introduced, Cohn’s Washington-centric focus all but leaves out any empathetic portrayal of ordinary Americans whose lives have been touched by the Affordable Care Act ... It would have been good to meet them across the narrative—even to know who they are.
MixedThe Washington PostMany readers may be unfamiliar with the events detailed in Kaufman’s book, though they were reported by the Wisconsin press as they unfolded. To those who have closely followed these goings-on, little here feels like a revelation. To his credit, the author did a lot of his own interviewing, though his prose would have benefited from fewer references to that fact. There are many interview mentions (\'Over coffee at the tribal casino . . .\') that do little to add substance to his storyline. Kaufman introduces us briefly to a lot of people, some of whom never reappear in the pages. Despite his evident research, Kaufman commits small errors of fact ... The book’s larger flaw is that Kaufman seems so eager to press his thesis from his own prismatic view that his story suffers from distortions by omission ... In his epilogue, Kaufman pivots. After lamenting all along that conservative forces are in control, unabated, he muses in his final paragraph that several people who oppose [Gov. Scott] Walker’s agenda, [Randy] Bryce chief among them, \'might reclaim the state they knew and loved.\' The prediction belies his book’s internal logic, but it illuminates Kaufman’s hope for the state where he grew up.