Washington hand Solomon (Where They Ain’t, 1999) astutely tracks three families of American aristocrats who wielded power inside the Beltway through the 20th century.
The mores of the managers and movers, the privileged and the needy, the socialites, lawyers, lobbyists, developers, and politicos of Washington, DC, are distilled in the intertwined tales of the Jewish Cafritz family, the African-American Hobsons, and the Boggs clan, a set of southern politicians and lobbyists. Through the revolving doors of power passed these remarkable people, who could thrive nowhere better than in the District. Wealthy widow Gwen Cafritz, doyenne of Washington society and supporter of the arts, saw things differently than husband Morris or their three sons. Though they all were effective in the cause of civil rights, prickly and abrasive Julius Hobson Sr. made choices quite different from those of his only son or his two wives. After husband Hale’s untimely death, Lindy Boggs succeeded him in Congress; one of their children became the city’s leading lawyer-lobbyist, another became mayor of the borough of Princeton, and the third became Cokie Roberts. Spanning a century, the networked positions of influence occupied by these three families encompassed such diverse events as school integration, a gigantic corporate bailout, a riot, and the death of the Clinton health-care initiative, as well as cruel robberies and important garden parties. National Journal contributing editor Solomon examines it all: presidential administrations from Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, paladins of power from Perle Mesta to Marion Barry, and generations of civil servants who were not necessarily servile or even civil. He presents a solid social history of the nation’s capital, which seems to have become a bit less affable lately. The increasingly internecine story will no doubt continue.
An insider’s knowing and engaging portrait, not to be found in any guidebook. (16-page photo insert, not seen)