09/02/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT
>FROM THE UNITED STATES OF AMBITION: Politicians, Power and the Par-suit of Office by Alan Ehrenhalt (Random House, $23):
Who sent these people?
It is not hard to ask that question every now and then during a normal political year, as we find ourselves confronted with office-holders and candidates who fail to meet any commonsense definition of what political leadership ought to be: aspirants for the U.S. Senate who traffic in the basest kind of playground name-calling; governors who win election on antitax platforms they know they will have to repudiate; members of Congress who talk endlessly about cutting the federal deficit and never even begin to do it; state legislators who fall for the most heavy-handed bribery schemes cooked up by federal prosecutors to entrap them. Is it possible that this is the best we can do—that this is the best political leadership the world's oldest democracy can muster?