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The CIA, Pork Barrel' Politics or You Can't Get to West Virginia From Here

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Thomas P. Tip ONeill Jr. the past venerable Speaker of the House of Representatives once remarked that he had learned two valuable lessons from the only political race he ever lost. The most important one he learned from his father who told him that all politics is local. Although the remark was not intended to refer to Congress, the parallel is obvious. As ONeill himself noted, you can be the most important congressman in the country, but you had better not forget the people back home. It would be hard to find a more appropriate characterization of the US Governments policy making process today. In this post-Cold War era, competition for budget resources, the search for the peace dividend, and the all too natural tendency for politicians to vote their constituency has blurred the political distinction between national and local issues. For many congressmen, what is good for their state must be good for America. Such dedication to Pork Barrel politics represents but one aspect of the dynamic and complex decision making process which the policymaker must understand and master to be successful. But such an understanding and mastery cannot be serendipitous. There must be some structure, nay, some analysis. Graham Allison is one scholar who has provided such a structure for analysis. His study of governmental decision making and, in particular, his Bureaucratic Politics paradigm provides an excellent framework to briefly study and dissect this process.

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  • Government and Political Science

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