She’ll tote around a video camera (the Tam Cam!) and do ambush interviews of Washington notables. She’ll broker an Obama interview for a news weekly aboard Air Force One. And although she’s best known for her exclusive party marking the White House Correspondents’ Dinner every April, Haddad will fete you whether you want it or not — “party rape,” as the friend of one victim called it.
Haddad, no surprise, was well aware of “This Town” as a work in progress, and Leibovich shoehorns in passages of her and others discussing it. “He’s writing a book about how Washington works and trying to get me to participate,” the Tamster confides to Gordon Brown at a book party (presumably consensual) for the former British prime minister.
Stoked by Politico, speculation has centered on who will be mentioned and what scores might be settled. For this reason, “This Town” contains no index; bold-face Washingtonians can’t just find their pages, see how they’re depicted, and read no more. These sorts of readers are the people Leibovich refers to as Leading Thinkers , Political Washington, People Who Run Your Country. (Yes, Leibovich is fond of Ironic Capitalizations Implying the Banality of Things Others Consider Important; sometimes phrases are not only ironically capitalized but ironically italicized as well, which I will always think of as a Double Leibo.)
Here’s how some Leading Thinkers came out: In “This Town,” we’re told that Chris Matthews and Matt Lauer have joked that David Gregory would rub out a few colleagues to advance his career. That Bill and Hillary Clinton are convinced that Tim Russert disliked them, and that they’re not wrong.That Harry Reid has “observed privately to colleagues” that John Kerry has no friends.That West Wing types suspected Valerie Jarrett had “earpiece envy” after David Axelrod got Secret Service protection, and so arranged the same for herself. And that when a national security official suggested that Obama shouldn’t skip the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner on the weekend of the Osama bin Laden raid because the media might get suspicious, Hillary Clinton looked up and issued her verdict: “[Expletive] the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.”
It’s all quite fun but, beyond Washington, will many people care? I suspect most Americans can make it through their days without knowing what Tammy Haddad is up to. And Leibovich notes that, outside of “Game Change” and Bob Woodward tomes, political books like this one rarely achieve commercial success. “This Town” is as insidery as “Game Change,” but with lower stakes, and it lacks the historical import of Woodward’s deep dives into the White House. But it’s not trying to be a book for the ages — it’s a book for the moment, and it captures it well.