OK. It really =is= a little incestuous. I was Stewart's Deputy when he was at Homeland Security. I helped him write the book. He gives me a nice acknowledgment in the introduction. And long ago he even gave me posting privileges on his web site (though I think he probably has forgotten that). So, naturally, if I tell you that I really like Stewart's book, you'll take it with a healthy grain of salt. As well you should. But maybe if I tell you why I like the book -- and what is particularly appealing about it -- that will convince on the merits, despite my obvious (and openly declared) bias.
So... why =do= I like it? That requires a bit of explanation. I've been reading Washington insider books for years. Heck, I am one, so I just love the genre. And, in the end, I've decided that they typically fall into two categories (often, a single book contains both types of memoir): The first, and most prevalent, is of the form "How I Was Brilliant and Saved the World." It recount all of the wonders and good deeds of the author and his (or her) remarkable ability to foresee the future with penetrating clarity. The second, almost as frequent but a little less so, is the natural corollary: "Why Those Who Disagreed with Me were Bleeping Idiots and What I Did About It." This is the "score settling" portion of the story where the fools who didn't listen to our hero get their intellectual comeuppance.
Skating on Stilts has both of these -- and plenty of it. Stewart was not know for his retiring nature and calm demeanor. As one of our colleagues liked to say "Stewart leads with his elbows." And that trait shows -- Stilts tells the story of many of the battles that Stewart (and I) joined at DHS. He did so with relish, and his joy at the policy process comes through in the book.
But what makes Stilts different (at least as far as I can see, almost unique) is the candid way in which Stewart also talks about his failures; about the things he did not accomplish that remain unfinished. When he talks about the major gaps in our bio-defenses, for example, everyone who reads the book should take notice. It's a huge problem today and we have barely begun to figure out a solution set for the problem. Stewart candidly admits that he tried ... and that he didn't succeed before he ran out of time.
So .. the book is a rollicking good romp. If you want to find out why Stewart has it in for the privacy-industrial complex, you'll find it here. But if you want something that's also a little different -- a senior leader telling you about what he couldn't fix -- then this is also the place to look.
And that makes the book well worth the read -- even if you don't come to it with my bias in favor of the author.