The Citizens of “This Town” Anticipate the Joys of Being Skewered

Is this Charles Pierce’s birthday? It ought to be, because the world of political media is putting on a veritable banquet for his dyspeptic appetite today. Like me (though with significantly less inhibition), the Esquire blogger has already taken down the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and Peggy Noonan’s latest column. I can only imagine what he will do with the latest “Behind the Curtain” VandeHei/Allen column, which somehow manages to give us a classic Beltway insider’s celebration a book mocking Beltway insiders.

The subject is a yet-to-be-published (of course! You have to look “behind the curtain” to find out about it!) memoir by former New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich entitled This Town (an allusion to the ancient and annoying term invariably used by “insiders” for the large city of Washington, DC). In a tone that alternates from light self-mockery to thinly disguised contempt for Liebovich’s sell-out, VandeHei and Allen inform us that their peers are proving the book’s main premise by buzzing endlessly about whether they appear in it. But here’s the main question they leave with us: Will it sell?

What’s not clear is if a book that focuses so heavily on figures little known outside of here can actually sell. The inhabitants of this town might obsess about themselves — but does anyone in the real world give a hoot? We have a hunch they might, if the smaller characters help indict not just the culture but also the bigger names in national politics.

Now that would raise irony to the level of soul-destroying cynicism, if a book ostensibly aimed at the trivial treatment of politics by Beltway Journalists made its author rich by sharing trivialities about politicians!

But just reading this column has given me a major case of mental–perhaps even spiritual–indigestion. I’ll leave further thoughts to Mr. Pierce.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.