Amusing and perceptive tales of the political animals in the zoo that is Washington, D.C.
New York Times Magazine chief national correspondent Leibovich (This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral—Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!—in America's Gilded Capital, 2013, etc.) presents a collection of previously published profiles of the camera-ready and well-rehearsed "public actors" who populate the modern American political sphere (and “carry themselves with a jumpy expectation that they are being studied at all times”), recounting “the whole unnatural experience that these subjects endure on their daily high wires.” These essays and profiles are uniformly witty, and some are a bit long, befitting the (self-) importance of his subjects. Indeed, Leibovich writes that if vanity and self-celebration were crimes, "the Capitol would be empty.” The author bemoans politicians' rejection of candor and reliance on media strategists; as an example, he tells of being summoned by Ted Kennedy Jr. to create a "foundational story" to serve as his announcement of running for office. Throughout the book, Leibovich delivers full-dimensional portraits of these eccentric D.C. denizens, and he expertly puts his finger on a vague sense readers might have about a politician—for instance, how Mitt Romney “emits a kind of pre-traumatic gaffe anxiety at all times.” The author also unmasks the insecurity behind the enormous egotism of bombastic talk show host Chris Matthews, whose profile isn't so much eviscerating as sharp and perceptive—and, yes, unrelenting. Leibovich provides a pithy assessment of the 2012 presidential campaign, but he admits to feeling depressed by the campaign due to the government's inertia and the realization that the lack of civility between the political parties wouldn't change, no matter which candidate won. He also laments living and raising a family in “the most disappointing city in America.”
Humorous, incisive and very droll.