What happens when a Washington political journalist stops being polite and starts getting real?
If you read the metacoverage, you would think all hell had broken loose in the aftermath of this Beltway tell-all by Leibovich, the chief national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine. In the light of day, his observations on the state of the capitol scene aren’t nearly as scathing as has been reported, nor as morbidly salacious as the infamous Game Change (which perversely earns its own chapter here). In fact, this amalgam of embedded reporting and cutting humor is largely a fascinating read devoted not just to the movers and shakers, but also to the machinery that makes the broken clockwork sort-of work. Leibovich captures all of his salient theses—the rise of new media, the immovable entrenchment of the Washington establishment dubbed “The Club,” and a portrait of “the modern cinematic version” of “Suck-up City,” warts and all. And when the author goes off-book, he can be startlingly funny. In the wake of the BP oil spill, he writes, “Washington becomes a determinedly bipartisan team when there is money to be made—sorry, I mean a hopeful exemplar of Americans pulling together in a time of crisis.” Moreover, his portraits of figures ranging from fellow journalists to socialites to the president are disarmingly candid. Harry Reid is portrayed as a former street fighter–turned-fixer. A scathing indictment of the system comes in the story of Kurt Bardella, an ambitious congressional aide who rises and falls and rises again. A kid from Rolling Stone brings down a U.S. Army general. From the elections to the absurdity of TV news, this litany of socialites, power brokers and fallen icons makes for a hell of a read while Rome burns.
A vivid depiction of full-tilt folly that is sure to have its narcissistic cast poring through it for their own names.