Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bonfire of the vanities

As an antidote to Chris Matthews' effusive Tip and The Gipper, there is Mark Leibovich's This Town, in which he paints Washington as a completely dysfunctional city driven by influence peddlers.  He doesn't extol the past but notes that former congressional lobbyists have risen ten fold over the years, with 42 per cent of congresspersons remaining in town after their terms, providing valuable access for lobbying groups.  In many cases, they "retire" because of the much more lucrative offers.

Leibovich seems to draw on Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke, lacing his pithy narrative with a number of barbs that should make for entertaining reading.  Critics have been gushing over the book, with Fareed Zakaria going so far as to consider it a "primary source" for future historians in finding the point at which America went wrong.  Indeed, Leibovich seems to view America very much in decline, noting how cynical Washington funerals have become in chapters on the deaths of Tim Russert and Richard Holbrooke, with Obama looking like a weary emperor as Clinton and others use their eulogies to "plunge a stealth dagger" into the man, who Kissinger likened to Nixon in preferring to be alone.

For those already cynical of Washington politics, this will only make you moreso to read the reviews.  Leibovich appears to come across as a modern-day Henry Adams, who loved nothing more than to skewer Washington social life, considering it hopelessly provincial in his time.  It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.


  1. I guess if 300+ pages is too much to read you can go for the condensed version,


  2. This book starts off really snarky but has some fascinating profiles of people like Issa's press secretary who was slipping the author his private emails from other journalists. It was almost like the book was unfolding in real time.