Most Incestuous Part of 'This Town'? The Press Coverage.

a | A

Could anything more accurately portray the small-minded, self-important, sycophantic, incestuous world of Washington than the way the press has, pardon the pun, gone to town over publication of Mark Leibovich's "This Town"?

Leibovich's inside look at the grandeur and grotesquerie that make wheels turn (and eyes roll) in the nation's capital is Washington's current obsession. David Shribman, writing in the New York Times, found it "a brilliant portrait — pointillist, you might say, or modern realist." More important, Shribman loved Leibovich, with his "sharp ear, and a sharp eye to accompany it." The irony of Shribman's puffery was not lost on Politico's Dylan Byers: "Most of what Shribman gets wrong stems from his infatuation with the book, which is particularly amusing since 'This Town' is a satire about suck-ups."

Let's not let Politico off the hook. BuzzFeed's Ben Smith called the book "a sort of extended love letter to Politico, my old employer." The love is certainly requited. Politico has long been ogling the book -- and its own reporters' roles within it. Mike Allen, who writes Politico's daily Playbook, is depicted as an "'enabler' of journalistic groupthink and the media-political complex," according to a review of the book in the Washington Post. Allen banked that as a compliment: In his July 4 and 5 morning e-mail missives, he provided readers with a link to pre-order on Amazon.

The book's back cover cheekily reads: "WARNING: 'This Town' does not contain an index. Those players wishing to know how they came out will need to read the book." Fret not: The Washington Post drew up -- amid its medley of "This Town" pieces -- an "unauthorized index" of 739 names and where they appear. (I have to admit, knowing that Paula Abdul is in the epilogue has me intrigued.)

BuzzFeed's Ben Smith wrote that David Rosenthal, under whose imprint Leibovich's book is published, "suggested that BuzzFeed put together its own index; we did, but the Post beat us to it." Why include an index when you can make a show of not including one and then get a narcissistic press to do it for you? Oh, Washington.

Of course, Smith includes the parenthetical disclaimer that Rosenthal "also worked with BuzzFeed on a political project." And Smith used to work at Politico. And Leibovich used to write for the Washington Post. And Shribman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and formerly of the Boston Globe, which is owned by the New York Times, wrote the Times review because Leibovich is on the staff of the New York Times Magazine, which published a lengthy excerpt on its cover this past weekend, which revolved largely around how Leibovich's reporting for his book landed him in the middle of a Washington controversy.

In the interest of full disclosure, Shribman informed readers (with some degree of jest) that he was friends with the late Tim Russert, at whose funeral the book opens. As for my own disclosure, how's this: I haven't read "This Town," which doesn't officially come out until next week. I have preordered it on Amazon, though. Mike Allen supplied the link.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Zara Kessler at