If you saw the 2012 movie Lincoln—the one directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the martyred president—you have seen something like the 19th-century version of An Idea Whose Time Has Come. Both are emotionally gripping stories of how epic and vitally important changes somehow made their way through the sausage-making machinery of Congress—the 13th Amendment in the case of Lincoln and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the case of this book. Both, moreover, are consummate “inside baseball” stories. They leave you with memorable anecdotes and character sketches of backroom deals, politicians major and minor, and unlikely heroes who rose above themselves to help carry the day. They are both ultimately stories in which Washington does the right thing.