Russell Baker, a New York Times Washington correspondent, gets a lot off his chest here in writing about Washington as a tribal entity, filled with bizarre customs. Considerable information is packed into chapters satirizing Society, Bureaucrats, Diplomats, Congress, the Presidency, etc. But the style is difficult, overcrowded with metaphors, and only fairly successful in its humor. The book opens-- ""Washington lies slightly south of Madrid and west of Maracaibo on a swamp littered with marble imitations of ancient Roman and Greek architecture."" At mid-passage: ""The American bureaucracy cannot be understood in terms of a monolith. It is rather like several hundred lidless baskets of snakes... there is the confusion within each basket and there is the confusion between baskets."" And on the last page: ""Washington, for all her pretensions to rank as a great lady among world capitals, still has the instinctive reflexes of a barlot.""- A sketch book, in which the individual scenes are sharper than the end view, and more satisfying in its occasional vignettes and insights.