As a politics junkie, I thought I would love Mark Leibovich’s This Town, which is billed as an inside look at Washington, DC. But I hated it, for a reason best captured by the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:
“This Town” isn’t a book about Washington. It’s a book about members of Washington’s political-communications complex. The key characters are mostly people who, in some way or another, get paid to talk about politics. . . . The bad news about “This Town” is that the political-communications complex is kind of an awful place. The good news is that it really doesn’t matter. The political-communications complex gets a lot of press for itself because the political-communications complex includes the press as well as the key political staffers whose job it is to talk to the press. But the attention is far out of proportion to the complex’s power.
Too true. This Town read like a high schooler’s memoir about his social life — all-consuming to the subject, utterly meaningless to a disinterested outsider.
What’s disappointing is that Washington has some genuine problems — including the cliques that dominate certain areas of policymaking. (The fight between Larry Summers and Janet Yellen for the Fed chair highlights one of the problems with deep insider politics.) That is to say, the type of society Leibovich (sorta) lampoons — connection-driven, content-free, intensely exclusive — exists and causes major issues for the rest of the country.
But the privileged hangers-on whom Leibovich features? Pfffft. At the end of the day they’re nothing.