This Town begins with Tim Russert's funeral in 2008, continues with Mike Wallace’s and pretty much ends at the time of Daniel Inouye’s, in December of 2012. One month later, Barack Obama ascends to the throne again. Sandwiched between these funerals, which attract anyone who is anyone, across party lines, is an expose of Washington DC politics. The shameful behavior of politicians, journalists, lobbyists and hangers-on is humorously exploited on the pages of this book, by a very apt author who knows from whence he speaks since he, too, is actively involved in the process.
Liebovich exposes the hypocrisy in the White House today and compares it to the hypocrisy of White Houses in days gone by. He does not hold back and after reading this, the reader may never trust a politician again, if he even does now. He shines a light on DC politics, and in particular on the Obama White House, since this is the time frame of the book. He interprets the mindset of this administration about the dissemination of information, the enactment of policies and about the use of sound bites. They know that the public has a short attention span; they know that the public is largely acting from ignorance; they know that whatever crisis erupts will have a short shelf life; they play that knowledge to their advantage with a complicit liberal media. There seems to be a distinct lack of concern for honor or accomplishment, but rather there is a deep concern for their own personal power, success and financial gain. Self aggrandizement, greed and pandering are the watchwords of the masses who work for, or are attached in some way to, the government in Washington DC.
Although it is a bipartisan representation of the facts, the Democrats seem to come off a bit worse since they are the ones in power during the time of the book’s focus. Liebovich describes how Tim Russert’s funeral degenerated into a circus as the “clowns” worked the room for their own benefit, even as they expressed their sympathies to those in mourning. He renders a picture of these sycophants as they buzz like bees around the “in” people in their environment, those people who can advance their own personal cause, rather than the government’s, rather than the people’s. For those who propelled Obama to fame and fortune, to prominence and the highest office in the land, he ascribes a private persona that is different from their public one. He describes an atmosphere that smells of Chicago politics with the dishonest representation of themselves, their policies and core beliefs. The people who inhabit the halls of this and other administrations flock like bees to honey when it will serve their own needs.
He carefully paints a picture of the elites prostituting themselves, attending functions and parties that will advance their own causes. They can all be bought for a price. It is a sad picture. They smile when they want to cry, they apologize when they really want to say what is on their minds, they lie when they have to and explain later. DC should be called “pander city”, for pandering is the skill in which the “club” members are most adept. It seems to me to be a “freak show”, a bunch of “dysfunctionals” parading around in the clothing of intelligent, concerned experts when no such persons really exists. It is all an act perpetrated by trained “phonies”! The author traces the beginnings of the degradation of Washington to the Clinton years, not because of Monica Lewinsky, but because of the atmosphere he created when he honored money and entertainment in the White House, rather than scientific accomplishment, heroism and intelligence.
This is really a rather tongue in cheek, scathing review of Washington cronyism, nepotism, power plays and influence. It is about the incestuous behavior of the “wannabes” as they snooker up to those who have the influence to change their lives. Forget hope and change for us, it is about hope and change for themselves, first and foremost. The book is about how Washingtonian bigwigs parley their experiences and contacts into big money when they leave the administration. It is about journalists jockeying for position, looking for that sound bite that will propel them into the future, regardless of its veracity, because more important is its “shock and awe” appeal. Who are these people if we remove their masks? They surely are not the faces they show us. There is a “group-think” mentality that prevails. The need is to be invited to the right places, meet the right people, latch onto an opinion that will sell. Forget disseminating news, that is no longer important. Gossip is golden, as exhibited by the popularity of DC’s Playbook, the online tip sheet of Who's Who in the arena. Like Palm Beach's Shiny Sheet, their must read print paper, you must see your name and photo in Playbook’s cyberspace, to guarantee that you are still alive and well.
Washington’s elite are mostly of one mind, liberal. They no longer present the news, but rather they give opinions. The people in the “club” are important, have their own agendas, and have discovered that the people who are not in the club, want to identify with those in it by reading their sound bites, learning their popular acronyms and quoting their talking points. Those in the club can’t be bothered to take the time to educate the people and the people can’t take the time to educate themselves; “they have places to go and people to meet”. They are too important to think of anything but themselves. Because of this lack of concern, the public, in particular the voter, is truly ignorant about the issues and only knows what the “powers that be” wish them to know. The bullies are in complete control. Regardless of the facts or lack of, that are presented, the crowd has to be fed, and the food has to be digestible by those in power and those in the media who may use half truths to persuade you of their honor and purpose. They fawn, they fabricate, they facilitate the rise to power of themselves and other “unworthies” who are deemed worthy only by virtue of the information they impart! The mob is in control;
Obama professed to be above it all, but that was nothing more than duplicity on his part and the part of his handlers. It is apparently no different for any politician. They say and do what they must to further their own cause, to get elected, and then they do as they darn well please, offering one excuse or another to a blind public. Obama has brought this duplicity to an art form for he and his team made the most grandiose promises which they quickly forgot once he entered the Oval Office, in favor of pursuing their own self-serving agendas. For Obama and his ilk, the behavior is particularly egregious because they were going to change Washington so it would no longer be a place of incestuous bargaining, of prostituting oneself for agreements, but they, instead, enhanced the corrupt environment by creating one that is even more secret, more out of control, more unrepresentative of the people’s wishes, unrepresentative of those that pay the freight, that is.
This book will not endear the readers to those who live or work in “This Town”, rather it will disgust them; yet they will put the same people in power, time and again, regardless of their broken promises, regardless of their methods, because they are motivated by the same greed that drives the elites, they are motivated by their own needs, not the greater needs of the country. They are fed half-truths and they make half-witted decisions based on that misinformation, believing false promises and outright lies.