D.C. journalist Mark Leibovich's loving burn book about the "incestuous ecology of insider Washington" isn't even out yet, but it has already proven its point: Everyone knows — and schmoozes — everyone. This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America's Gilded Capital promises to chronicle "a land driven by insecurity, hypocrisy and cable hits, where friendships are transactional, blind-copying is rampant and acts of public service appear largely accidental." Those "friendships" are on display in the first wave of writing about the book — it seems no one can broach the subject of the promiscuous politics without encountering a bold-faced player with whom they are already well-acquainted. What follows is a primer on who exactly knows who and how, by their own admission.
To get really meta right away, the author himself started the trend within This Town, in a section about his colleagues writing about the writing of the book, as published in excerpt form in The New York Times Magazine, where he works:
Many people I have known and worked and socialized with for years wrote columns and blog posts about the saga. The stories were all comically larded with “full disclosures” about how the authors were friends with this person or that person or, in many cases, me. In his Washington Post column, Dana Milbank (a friend) wrote, “If Washington’s political culture gets any more incestuous, our children are going to be born with extra fingers.”
And here's Milbank in the Post, again, last week:
Copies of This Town, my friend and former Washington Post colleague Mark Leibovich’s soon-to-be released book about Washington culture, have begun to dribble out, and people in the capital are reacting in the predictable way of sorting out who came out worst.
From the New York Times review of This Town, by former Washington bureau chief of the Boston Globe David Shribman:
[Leibovich] opens with an account of the 2008 funeral of the NBC Washington bureau chief and “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, and as a quarter-century resident now in happy exile, I suppose I should stick to form and mention, hideously, that we — Tim and I — came to Washington at the same time and were friends, although mostly because I had a wife from Buffalo, and he delighted in teasing her about her bowling.
And the Washington Post's review, by Post Outlook editor Carlos Lozada:
Leibovich, chief national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine and a former reporter at The Washington Post (where we overlapped briefly but never met), is a master of the political profile …
BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith's review includes this note:
This Town was published under the imprint of the legendary political editor David Rosenthal (who also worked with BuzzFeed on a political project) …
And this one:
In the same vein, the book winds up being a sort of extended love letter to Politico, my old employer, which has more than 50 mentions in This Town — conquest, clearly, complete.
Which leads us, of course, to Politico's masters of the inside, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, who warned:
Talk about incestuous: A top Obama official cashes in with a top corporation with the help of a top Washington fixer and gets top-shelf treatment from one of Washington’s top journalists (who also happens to be the co-byline on this piece.)
VandeHei and Allen again:
For what it’s worth, [Tammy] Haddad [a media consultant and, in Leibovich's words "a human ladle in the local self-celebration buffet"] is a friend who has thrown parties for us. Come to think of it, she has thrown parties for virtually every other person and cause we know.
Admirably, Leibo – yes, we call him “Leibo” — doesn’t want anyone to be completely blindsided by what’s about to hit them.