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Elevator Pitch: Why Care About Washington?

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­­My friend Mark Leibovich — a New York Times reporter — has written a book about the inner watchworkings of Power Washington called This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America's Gilded Capital. Among the incestuous cognoscenti of the Capital City, This Town has more buzz than a top-bar beehive.

"His tour through Washington only feeds the worst suspicions anyone can have about the place — 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," observes Carlos Lozada in The Washington Post.

"In a super-literal way, the city that I live in — where people live on the Green Line or in Bloomingdale/Eckington/LeDroit Park or out on H Street NE — is a very different city from the one Leibovich profiles," writes Matthew Yglesias in Slate. "It's become a city of principle, and a city where much less gets done in backroom deals. But it's also a city with much more vicious partisanship and much less of a spirit of 'let's compromise for the public good.' It's a city that people have come to hate for whole different reasons and in whole different ways."

Lozada and Yglesias are both Washingtonians, as are many of the people who are at once drawn to and repelled by the behavior described in This Town.

So my question to Mark: Why in the world would anyone outside the Beltway care to read about Washington's wretched ways? You've got 30 seconds. Go.

"People from out of town should read This Town because no one truly knows what the whole giddy carnival here has become. All of the vanity, opportunism and shamelessness that ever was has been amplified by so much big money and so much New Media. It captures a moment — meaning, the nation's capital in the 21st century — that people don't fully appreciate in all its decadence. It's a serious story. But people seem to be laughing hard at it, so that's good, too ..."

Further Reading:

The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins, by Jeff Connaughton, a 2012 Washington scather by a former aide to Vice President Joe Biden.

What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, a 2008 tell-some by Scott McClellan, former press secretary to President George W. Bush.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.