Why is Mark Leibovich so nasty? I just finished reading This Town by Mark Leibovich or what should have been called: Mark Knows Best!
Many years in the making, the book This Town is largely devoted to skewering his journalism colleagues of 20 years or so, and also features other collateral damage such as people he has interviewed in the past. Under the weight of Leibo's (his "fun frat" name) high and mighty quill, few are spared.
Because I actually know a number of the people this guy attempted to chop and drop from the highest point in Washington (his ego), I thought I would share some impressions in the hopes that no one will run out and buy the book.
The Markster's (this is my "fun" name for him) premise is this: Washington journalists (and anyone in proximity to Washington journalists) have formed into a large pod of narcissistic, greedy, insincere (but wildly insecure) suck ups. Each player is motivated by two things: 1) Basking in the brightest lime light possible (even if it has to be the dim light of funerals) and 2) Feeding at the largest political money trough (at the intersection of politics, media and journalism) possible -- or something like that.
Of course, the Markster says it much better -- and nastier. Think sperm whales filtering ego nutrient$ like krill. (The Markster likes to use dollar signs when he thinks people are only motivated by $.)
When we learn that everyone in Washington is like this: Morally compromised, money-grubbing and driven for all the wrong reasons, it can be depressing. But then we get relief when we realize --- Mark is not like the rest of them. He is pure. Never mind that he is at the exact same parties feeding on exactly the same crab and cucumber canapés he so disdains. He seems to believe he is sort of the Moses of journalism, born to stand in righteous judgment of the non-Marksters.
His favorite fun trick is to trap people in faux moral dilemmas and then exempt himself. His likes to allude to fancy food at events where people are eating and discussing poverty or war. At the same time! He drinks up and chomps away even while he is jotting down the shortcomings of everyone around him.
But no matter. Mark's psychological gifts are on full display in this book. He is like Superman with super sonic insight into what motivates people, even if they have not told him a thing about what motivates them. He also has an amazing (secret) human insecurity meter. He just knows! He can just tell just how insecure or confident someone is (whether they tell him or not) and then he writes it down in his "book". It's sort of Mark magic.
Do I think the whole book is one big projection? Do I think Mark has a big case of impostor syndrome? Do I think Mark Leibovich is a "Give A Show Projector" for almost every single person he has ever met? Why would you think that?
But Mark can really tear it up -- people, I mean. Well, except for Haley Barbour and Ben Bradlee. He does not tear them up because he really, really admires them. Here is what I learned:
1) Mark loves Haley Barbour. In fact, Mark is a major suck up when it comes to Haley Barbour. There is something about his heft -- that raw duck hunting kind of deal making that really draws the Markster in. He is the only person mentioned in the book (except see 2 below!) that Mark mentions but then does not go on to chop into small duck parts. Way to go, Haley!
2) Mark also loves and admires -- and therefore does not character assassinate -- Ben Bradlee! We learn that Mark really, really likes Ben (in a professional way). In fact, we get to learn Mark's favorite Ben Bradleeism: "Keep your pecker up!" Mark wrote it twice in the book, which means he really liked this saying: "Keep your pecker up." There, I wrote it twice, too. Just like Mark. Again, Mark learned this saying from his really good friend, Ben Bradlee.
I wonder if Mark has shared this favorite saying with his three daughters. Those are three humans he seems to love much more than other humans. But, then, that is probably too personal. I don't want to forget that the Markster actually has children the way he forgot other people have children when he was wrote the "book".
For some unknown reason, the Markster had a lot to say about my friend, Tammy Haddad. He seemed to really resent her success as a long time producer and her ability to innovate within the changing landscape of new media. Here is a good example of Mark Knows Best! when it comes to Tammy and her family.
The Markster thought it was his place to write about the nature of Tammy Haddad's husband's illness. (Thankfully, he has fully recovered.) Why leave it to Tammy and Ted to speak to their own children when the Markster can put it in print for them? Another way that Mark showed he knew best was using the death of Tammy's mother as a fresh platform to ridicule her about successful fundraising events (one of which she had produced but then missed because of her mother's funeral). But Mark is right! Who does she think she is raising in excess of $1.6M to support epilepsy research. That Tamster! Always up to good. Way to go, Mark!
And, apropos of nothing (as Mark likes to say), he goes after Bob Barnett. A lot. Bob Barnett? Bob Barnett -- the wise, effective, gentle and did I say extremely capable lawyer, Bob Barnett? Mark uses his confidence meter on Bob and it is really something to see how Mark can leap over actual knowledge in a single bound. Mark ignores heresay -- and goes straight to thinksay. What did Bob Barnett ever do to the Peckster one has to wonder? I have known Bob Barnett for years. And, you, Mark Leibovich, are no Bob Barnett.
The book opens with Mark cleverly using the memorial service for Tim Russert as a platform for launching his slice-fest. In fact, Mark uses his ambition meter to take a posthumous reading on Tim Russert. Never mind that Luke, Tim's son, has to live with all this crap in print forever. But it's ok, Mark knows what is good for all of us.
He really hones in on anyone who has ever "been on TV" or "held a political position." (I did notice that the Markster was "on TV" quite a bit hawking this book. But then, that's just Mark --- full of mystery about what rules apply to others versus what rules apply to him.) (Damn, my hypocrisy meter just went off --- sorry Mark!)
Joe Biden,Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, Terry McAuliffe, Andrea Mitchell, Ed Henry, David Gregory, Mitt Romney, Howard Fineman, the entire Podesta family, the entire staff of Politico (Oops -- my jealousy meter just went off), some of the staff of HuffPost and so much more! Mark has deep cynical insights to share about all of them!
Listen, I know this Mark guy seems to be gifted at peering into the souls of others --- even better than Bush gazing into Putin, but this book serves no useful purpose. It is cynical and mean.
I have to conclude that the Markster must hate his job. After all, he certainly has a lot of disdain for this town. Perhaps he should move to the forest where he can carve up wood instead of people. And, then he could keep his pecker up and be in good company at the same time.
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