In his new book This Town (Blue Rider Press, 400 pp., $27.95), Mark Leibovich commits an act of treason against the Washington establishment. After years of attending its parties, Mr. Leibovich, a national correspondent for The New York Times, turns his pen against the city’s social class and empties his notebook of all the cozy friendships and indiscreet cocktail chatter. The book, when it finally came out last week, had already unnerved the capital for months. Politico published a prophylactic piece that attempted to scoop some of the book’s best scenes, with the clear message that their “Leibo” was no outsider.
But he doesn’t need to be. Mr. Leibovich goes out of his way to disclose his own insider status, and then uses it to deliver a thoroughly entertaining—and mildly devastating—critique of the grubby, self-dealing Washington establishment. His focus is on the city’s permanent class, “The Club,” as he calls it, “a political herd that never dies or gets older, only jowlier, richer and more heavily made-up.” Its members feed off a political establishment that seems far removed from public service, and they amass a local form of power through media hits, party invitations, Politico mentions and lots of loud conversations about their well-positioned friends. It’s “a system that rewards, more than anything, self-perpetuation,” and while it may be petty, transactional and transparent, as Mr. Leibovich points out, it often pays quite well. Read More