Our fair city has been christened with many a name.
The latest is “This Town,” the title of a buzzed-about new book by The New York Times Magazine’s Mark Leibovich. An earlier version of its subtitle — “The Way It Works in Suck-Up City” — should give you a good idea of the kind of wheeling-and-dealing and self-promotion that riddle its pages. It portrays a world that some recognize immediately: an incestuous playground for the country’s moneyed elite and wannabe moneyed elite. Other residents are left scratching their heads as to precisely where the District that they experience on a daily basis is in all of this.
Like any good insider exposé, it is the talk of, well, this town, this week — ahead of its release Tuesday.
D.C.’s Food Fight With New York Is Still On
The New York Times continues to slip up when it comes to basic District facts (see: a recent casual reference to “the transitional H Street NE neighborhood near Dupont Circle”). In reviewing “This Town,” the Times’ David Shribman whines that there isn’t a “single decent slice of pizza or a passable submarine sandwich” to be found in D.C. Shribman clearly never savored a slice at Pete’s Apizza or noticed the mushrooming enterprise that is Taylor Gourmet.
Hillary Doesn’t [Bleep] Around
Hillary Rodham Clinton cares as little about the overblown corporate media-circus that is the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner as the rest of us. When a group of security officials were discussing whether President Barack Obama should attend the annual event on the day of the Osama bin Laden raid, lest his absence tip off the media, “Clinton looked up and said simply, ‘F— the White House Correspondents’ dinner,’” Leibovich writes.
‘Washington’ Doesn’t Know the Real ‘D.C.’
The city’s functioning, lived-in communities warrant barely a mention in “This Town” amid its chronicles of a gilded, power-hungry world. As The Washington Post’s Clinton Yates writes, “Many live for years in and around the city without ever really acknowledging it exists. It’s a division that many who have lived here for years call the difference between ‘Washington’ and ‘D.C.’ ”
Everyone Has the Same ‘Superlawyer’
A “superlawyer” named Bob Barnett represents just about anyone-who-is-anyone, including both Clintons and Sarah Palin, as well as (literally) hundreds of journalists. “He is a walking conflict of interest,” an unnamed television journalist proclaims, before going on to say that she plans to use him for her next deal.
The Post Has a Bigger Staff Than Express
In between all of the schmoozing, sucking up and self-promotion, Washington’s power players don’t have time to read. That’s what we assume based on the book’s dust jacket, anyway. “WARNING,” it proclaims, “ ‘This Town’ does not contain an index.” Interested parties will have to actually, uh, read the thing instead of just zooming in on mentions of their names. For those loath to do all that hard work, though, The Post compiled a list of 739 names and the chapters in which they appear. Skim away, D.C. fat cats.
Funerals Are the New Happy Hour
Funerals are not sacred ground for said schmoozing, sucking up and self-promotion. In fact, they are prime ground for it — so long as you do it with a modicum of subtlety. The book opens with the June 2008 funeral of veteran newscaster Tim Russert where “power mourners” intensely surveyed the fame-oozing crowd for their next networking opportunities.
The President’s Dog Isn’t Off Limits
Image is everything, as the maxim goes, in “This Town.” Even curmudgeonly Harry Reid — who is described as being “endowed with all the magnetism of a dried snail” — is “surprisingly food- and body-obsessed.” He once took a potshot at George W. Bush’s dog, Barney, who had ambled into their meeting. “Your dog is fat,” Reid unsubtly informed the president.
Air of Mystery Means You’ve Made It
In a city of rampant résumé-padding and ladder-climbing, it turns out, that isn’t how you win success here at all. According to Leibovich, “You know you’ve made it in D.C. when someone says that – ‘it isn’t clear what he does’—about you.” Time to give up that GS-10 job and just start showing up at parties?