Okay, so bear with me because this is going to be complicated and maybe not that interesting to any of you.
Way back in 2010, Mark Leibovich wrote a profile of Politico and Politico's never-blinking, rounder-upper of day-old links from the internet, Mike Allen. The piece was well-received and Leibovich was able to parlay its success into a book deal, the fruits of which will soon be in the form of "This Town," a book that will further savage Washington, D.C.'s eminently savageable culture, including Politico. And so, Politico and Politico's Mike Allen have opted to preemptively savage Leibovich right back, in a piece published Thursday night that is the ne plus ultra of Beltway insider nonsense.
And I have to say ... this isn't going to make Politico look like the better people, here. In the fourth paragraph of the piece, the battle of who-could-care-less is lost when co-author Allen refers to himself, and informs his readers that he is a pretty important guy:
Talk about incestuous: A top Obama official cashes in with a top corporation with the help of a top Washington fixer and gets top-shelf treatment from one of Washington’s top journalists (who also happens to be the co-byline on this piece.)
This article describes Mike Allen as "one of Washington’s top journalists." It's written by Mike Allen thkpr.gs/11WVKiv
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) April 26, 2013
Yes, Allen is pretty sure he is a "top journalist;" after all, the entire existence of Allen's regular "Behind The Curtain" feature is already predicated on the assumption that he is a top journalist. Of course, maybe co-author Jim VandeHei insisted this be included? Or he wrote this part himself? However it happened, it makes sense that the paragraph began with the words, "Talk about incestuous."
Anyway, the Politico duo are super-duper upset about this book, and mad at Leibovich, who they excoriate thusly:
Leibovich, at once a supremely confident and strangely self-conscious writer, made this easy by holding a series of unusual conversations with people around town about what he’s writing. Some felt like therapy sessions – for himself and his targets. It assuages his guilt, while reassuring some subjects and rattling others.
Naturally, the "unusual conversation" that co-author Allen has the most intimate awareness of is the one he had with Leibovich that spawned the feature story that begat the book. If that felt like a therapy session ... well, re-reading it, I can only be sorry that it didn't prompt more of that.
But in fairness, there are lots of other people that are, or at least should be, preemptively upset about the book, as well. Including, we are told, some "top advisers" to President Barack Obama who "talked a big game about change and then cashed in their connections." But mainly the book is about the appalling behavior at Beltway cocktail parties and especially at Tim Russert's funeral, which for all intents and purposes, was a party:
Two people familiar with the book said it opens with a long, biting take on Russert’s 2008 funeral, where Washington’s self-obsession – and lack of self-awareness – was on full display. The book argues that all of Washington’s worst virtues were exposed, with over-the-top coverage of his death, jockeying for good seats at a funeral and Washington insiders transacting business at the event.
“He’s at every single party, and NOW he takes the knife out?” protested one of Leibovich’s subjects. “And Russert’s funeral? People are appalled.”
If you are "at every single party" in Washington, then "taking the knife out" is perhaps the noblest thing you can do. Also, I'm guessing the person anonymously quoted here meant to say, "People are appalling." Right? As in, "people are engaged in being terrible on an ongoing basis." To wit:
“Everyone’s talking about it, because everyone thinks they’re in it,” said Susanna Quinn, wife of Democratic lawyer Jack Quinn and granddaughter of a U.S. senator.
In other words, it will be utterly devastating to many of these people if they are not important enough to have wound up in "This Town."
Leibovich's book isn't coming out until mid-July. The only reason VandeAllen are serving this up now is because this weekend, Washington plays host to the annual
Masque Of The Red Death White House Correspondents' Dinner, which is always a good occasion to carry out a clandestine assassination because all of Washington's self-absorbed reporters are paying even less attention to the world around them than they already do.
At the moment, my current favorite example of a book that details the awfulness of Beltway culture is Neil Barofsky's "Bailout." The first-rate chronicle of the pettiness of powerful people is also a searing indictment of the government's lack of even basic regulatory oversight. Can Leibovich do better? Only time will tell. For what it's worth, VandeAllen are not so sure:
What’s not clear is if a book that focuses so heavily on figures little known outside of here can actually sell. The inhabitants of this town might obsess about themselves — but does anyone in the real world give a hoot?
Ironically, "the inhabitants of this town might obsess about themselves — but does anyone in the real world give a hoot?" could go under Politico's nameplate as their motto.
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