In his new book This Town, self-described Washington insider Mark Leibovich paints an unattractive portrait of a capital focused on image, personal wealth and self-interest over public service.
"I've violated an unwritten rule that says people on the inside should not write critically about other people on the inside," said Leibovich, the chief national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine and a former reporter for the Washington Post. "I name names. I write about this decadent world we live in in D.C. and it might not be flattering to people, but I think part of being a good journalist is making things uncomfortable and talking about uncomfortable truths. And frankly, Washington is a very, very comfortable city right now. It’s comfortable economically, it’s comfortable as far as people having their place and getting an easy next act. So if it makes that world a little more uncomfortable, I welcome it."
Leibovich decided to write the book after witnessing the posturing of many of the attendees of the 2008 funeral of Meet the Press host and NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert, and that's where the book begins. (The full title is This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral – Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!)
"I saw that Washington had reached a tipping point of self-celebration, which juxtaposed with an incredible level of dissatisfaction out in the country for what is going on in D.C. and also the disconnect between the economic struggle in the country and the incredible wealth that has grown up in the nation's capital; it is now the wealthiest metropolitan area in the United States," said Leibovich.
His book highlights the increased presence of the press and the increased amount of money in politics now, with politicians sticking around the capital after they leave office to become lobbyists. Also of note is what Leibovich calls the "myth of Washington."
"Everyone says Washington is hopelessly divided, which is true to a point. But, in fact the bigger truth, I think, is that Washington is very much interconnected," said Leibovich. "A lot of the same Democratic and Republican pundits you see yelling at each other on TV are quite often striking deals in the green room, trying to go into business together or doing paid speeches together in which they can debate their left/right positions and get paid 50 grand a pop in some cases by some corporations willing to pay it."
Mark Leibovich will give the Millstone Lecture on Wednesday, October 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Saint Louis University School of Law at 100 N. Tucker Blvd.
The St. Louis Beacon and Saint Louis University School of Law Present the Millstone Lecture by Mark Leibovich: "How Self-Service Has Replaced Public Service in the Gilded Capital"
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Saint Louis University School of Law, 100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis Beacon Website