HOMO POLITICUS by Dana Milbank


The Strange and Barbaric Tribes of the Beltway
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A comic treatise on the unique customs of Potomac Man, that strange indigenous tribe inhabiting the area in and around Washington, D.C.

Composed in part of items previously posted in Milbank’s must-read Post column, “Washington Sketch,” the text offers an anthropological examination of the behaviour of the district’s political tribe, looking at its rites and rituals, how its members eat, where (and with whom) they sleep. Milbank hilariously compares the beliefs and rituals of primitive cultures with things that happen every day inside the Beltway. For instance, he juxtaposes the Melanesian practice of tribal Big Men purchasing political power and influence via lavish gifts (moka) with the questionable practices of the many lobbyists and influence peddlers who do business in the capital. Although many of these stories are common knowledge, others are not. For instance, did you hear the one about Jack Abramoff’s plan to serve a rare, cud-chewing (and thus kosher) Asian pig species at a deli he was planning on opening? Or about the vehemently anti–Michael Jackson memos Chief Justice John Roberts wrote when he was a lawyer with the Reagan administration? Or how Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, upset to be in the minority and thus without a committee chairmanship, set up his own fake Judiciary Committee in the basement of the Capital, sheet-draped witness tables and all? The political-tell-all-as-cultural study conceit wears surprisingly well; Milbank’s comparisons are sharp and funny enough to keep it fresh. If ever proof was needed that D.C. is a strange and exotic place with a culture all its own, it can be found here.

Acerbic fun for political junkies.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-385-51750-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2007


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