Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Washington Insider Mark Leibovich Dishes Out Acid Indigestion in This Town

I started with the audio version of the book, and quickly sprang for a print copy of Mark Leibovich's This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral * plus plenty of valet parking! * in America's Gilded Capital. It's not the kind of book I would consume as a steady diet, but it is the kind of fare that stays with you for a while. Reading this reminded me of a similar book about Washing pork that I'd read in the 1980s. I've never completely gotten the taste out of the mouth.

The book's time frame kicks off in the summer of 2008, beginning with the high-profile funeral of Tim Russert. Long before the most recent election there has been plenty in our nation's capitol to get indigestion about, and it's apparent that Mr. Leibovich knows how to make a seven-course meal of it.

The prologue begins here: Tim Russert is dead. But the room was alive.

You can't work it too hard as a memorial service, obviously. It's the kind of thing people notice. But the big-ticker Washington departure rite can be such a great networking opportunity. You can almost feel the ardor behind the solemn faces: lucky stampedes of power mourners, about two thousand of them, wearing out the red-carpeted aisles of the Kennedy Center.

You get the picture.

In light of this year's "drain the swamp" GOP rallying cry I found this passage of interest, from page 8: "...the anti-Washington reflex in American politics has been honed for centuries, often by candidates who deride the capital as a swamp, only to settle into the place as if it were a soothing whirlpool bath once they get elected. The city exists to be condemned."

On the following page Leibovich elaborates.

Getting rich has become the great bipartisan ideal: "No Democrats and Republicans any more, only millionaires," goes the maxim. The ultimate Green party. You still hear the term "public service" thrown around, but often with irony and full knowledge that "self-service" is now the real insider play.

It's a sad state of affairs that doesn't offer much hope to young people with ideals. Then again, the veterans would say that such idealism was naive in the first place.

The book's critics cite the tone with which the author writes. At first it entertains us, true, but as the pages flip by one can't help but begin to identify with the Amazon reviewer T.I. Farmer who states, You won't know which is sadder: the tone-deaf isolation of all these media kings and queens, political fixers, shameless lobbyists, and assorted hustlers feeding off one another... or the author's failure to muster sadness or outrage. It is no secret that Washington culture is rotten, but what might be revelatory is the thorough lack of interest, on the inside, in doing anything to make government more effective and accountable... Where the book is meant to be giggly and whimsical it's actually depressing.

One thing I'm curious about is how the characters and players he writes about in the book actually felt about his airing their dirty laundry? What is this author's next move going to be? There's quite a bit of unkindness. On the other hand, Leibovich would no doubt make the case that these buffoons who run our country have earned it. Oh the games people play...

Meantime, ... 

1 comment:

LEWagner said...

There is nothing we can do about Washington.
Each one of us can help "identify false content and encourage higher-quality journalism in the new networked age".