From the review by Alec Russell, the Financial Times Comment and Analysis editor:
A welcome fruit of [Frum's] experiences as a sometime combatant in Washington’s wars is this waspish satire of America’s tribal politics. It is in many ways the antithesis of The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin’s beguiling television drama of an idealistic liberal president and his quick-talking aides. This in contrast does all it can to strip the romance. Rather, it is rooted in the intrigue, sleaze, dreary fundraisers, insincerities, half-truths, infidelities, leaks, double-dealing, tendentious tweets and, of course, atrocious canapés of a city where all that matters is your proximity to power. It is by far the more accurate of the two portraits. It is also a timely insight into the paralysis besetting US politics.
The plot is set in the early months of a new presidency. A wheelchair-bound general has just led the fissiparous Constitutionalist party to victory over America’s first black president after one term. His party might be expected to be celebrating, but true believers suspect the general is not at heart one of them. So they start plotting to undermine him, backed by the foghorn of Patriot News, a rolling news channel (sound familiar?) and the Constitutionalist Institute (an, er, monolithic think-tank). Enter young Walter Schotzke, whose picaresque adventures begin when he lands a berth in the office of one of the last moderate Constitutionalist senators.
For Beltway insiders there is fun to be had from the not-so-subtle caricatures of leading figures in the conservative moment. (Grover Norquist, the hyperactive godfather of the anti-tax movement, may not enjoy reading the unflattering portrayal of Elmer Larsen, who heads “Americans for Entrepreneurship” – but then again the fictional Larsen has an adamantine grip on the right.) But the real strength of the novel, particularly for non-Washingtonians, lies not in the lampooning but in the dissection of the tribalism of DC.
Early on, Walter meets up with an old friend who had worked for the defeated president. He is aghast at the brush-off he receives. “We’re not just two college pals who happen to work for Coke and Pepsi,” his friend says. “We’re on opposite sides of a wall. We’re officers in armies at war ... You got a TV network to tell lies about me ... I’ll get a TV network to tell lies about you.”