Magazine article USA TODAY

This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus Plenty of Valet Parking!-In America's Gilded Capital

Magazine article USA TODAY

This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus Plenty of Valet Parking!-In America's Gilded Capital

Article excerpt


Two Parties and a Funeral--plus plenty of valet parking!--in America's Gilded


BY Mark Leibovich

Blue Rider Press, N.Y.

2013, 368 PAGES, $27.95


Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, previously served for six years as a political correspondent in the Washington bureau of the Times. Earlier he worked for nine years at the Washington Post. Leibovich received a National Magazine Award in 2011. The author selected the title from a list including "Suck-up City:" "You'll Always Have Lunch in This Town Again," and "The Club." After working in Washington, D.C., for 15 years, he learned that This Town imposes on its "actors a reflex toward devious and opportunistic behavior, and a tendency to care about public relations more than any other aspect of their professional lives--and maybe even personal lives." This Town as Washingtonians refer to the place, festers "faux disgust and a wry distance--a verbal tic as a secret handshake." A play on the two-word refrain people in This Town frequently use, "This Town" functions as a cliche of "belonging, knowingness, and self-mocking civic disdain"


Then there is "The Club" made up of This Town's city fathers, whose "spinning cabal of people in politics and media can be as potent in D.C. as Congress" The club itself has been known by various names: "Permanent Washington;' "The Political Class," "The Chattering Class," "The Usual Suspects," "The Beltway Establishment," "The Chamber," "The Echo-System:' "The Gang of 500," "The Movable Mass,' and others.

Leibovich confesses he belongs to The Club. Participating in many hundreds of social and political events among members of The Club, he has profiled countless political figures and capably writes about politics in the "big media outlet." The book analyzes This Town in a time of alleged corrective action. To the author, "Suck-up City' describes the Beltway culture's depraved contamination with sycophancy--sucking up to people to please them or to get something from them. Winning in Washington means "winning people over--sometimes by argument; craft; obsequiousness and favors; pressure; or a chest-thumping, ape-type show of strength."

One of Leibovich's major Washington criticisms concerns lobbyists. The biggest shift in Washington over the last 40 years has been the arrival of "Big Money, politics as an industry, and lobbyists" During 2009, the most profitable year ever for the lobbying profession, special interests collectively spent $3,470,000,000 lobbying the Federal government. Complicated current legislation will provide profitable business for lobbyists. Despite the exorbitant cost of hiring lobbyists, corporations equate lobbyists' ability to "shape, tweak, or kill even minute legislative loopholes with saving millions of dollars." Because hundreds of lobbyists call themselves "public affairs consultants," "senior advisers," or "strategic advisers," Washington "crawls with people not registered to lobby, but who get paid to advocate fulltime for some business, organization, or industry." Leibevich suggests that no single development in the last century has "altered the workings of American democracy as much as political consulting." As consultants have replaced party bosses as "wielders of political power gained not by votes but by money," corporations "have tripled the amount of money spent on lobbying and public affairs consulting in D. …

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