Bold-faced names dished in ‘This Town’
Mark Leibovich’s new book, “This Town,” dishes the dirt on some of Washington’s power players. Here’s a selection, courtesy of The Post’s Carlos Lozada and David Beard.
After an unflattering profile of Obama’s senior adviser was published, a 33-point memo on ways to praise her was sent to West Wing staffers, writes “This Town” author Mark Leibovich. The memo was titled “The Magic of Valerie” and included the following point: “Valerie is someone who other people inside the building know they can trust. (need examples).”
Among those who didn't fare well in Leibovich’s book: President George W. Bush's beloved — and departed —Scottish terrier. Writes Leibovich: “When George W. Bush invited (Sen. Harry Reid) to the Oval Office . . . Reid promptly insulted the president’s dog, Barney, who had trotted into their meeting. ’Your dog is fat,’ Reid told the president.”
The onetime supporter of a House resolution condemning the Armenian genocide of 1915 opposed the measure as a $70,000-a-month lobbyist for Turkey, Leibovich writes, adding: “Genocide goes down a little easier at those rates.”
Sen. Tom Coburn
“Coburn's ‘disappointment’ with his colleagues is palpable. He insists they’re 'wonderful people,' albeit clueless and cowardly,'' writes Leibovich. "He has prescribed a ‘spinal implant’ for 70 percent of the chamber. Or, moving down the body, he has diagnosed his colleagues as having ‘reproductive organs the size of BBs’ and to be generally lacking in ‘gonads.’
Obama’s early appointment of Hillary Clinton at State looked like “a smart, even Machiavellian move,” Leibovich writes, “the kind of gritty political play that led skeptics to think maybe Obama did have the gonads to operate in This Town. (That skepticism was articulated by James Carville, who joked that ‘if Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he’d have two.’
He had said this publicly a few times and Hillary asked him to please stop.)”
In Mark Leibovich's account, veteran NBC news reporter Andrea Mitchell is a conflict of interest in human form. Married to former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, Mitchell has specialized in covering administrations and campaigns that “overlapped considerably with her social and personal habitat,” as Leibovich puts it. And what do you do when you’re reporting on the 2008 financial crisis, and many people are pointing at your husband as a chief culprit? NBC tossed up a fig leaf: Allowing Mitchell to cover the politics of dealing with the financial crisis, but not the conditions that gave rise to it. Such hair-splitting becomes inevitable, Leibovich writes, because Mitchell trying to avoid conflicts of interest is “like an owl trying to avoid trees.”
Sen. Harry Reid
“To keep phone calls streamlined, Reid often skips saying goodbye. The other party might keep talking to a dead line for several seconds without realizing it. . . . When Jim Manley walked me into his office and introduced me, Reid barely looked up and said to Manley, ‘Is this the sleazeball you told me about?’ He had me at sleazeball.”
If superlawyer Bob Barnett doesn't represent you, you must not be worth representing. He negotiated Hillary Rodham Clinton's $8 million book advance (not to mention the $10 million he reeled in for Bill) plus eight-figure deals for Sarah Palin in book, speaking and television gigs. He counts 375 journalists among his client list — all of whom he promotes with the same zeal that he promotes himself. Barnett longs for the very thing he delivers for his clients: a reputation upgrade. “He hates being called an ‘agent’ ” explains Leibovich, “with its hired-gun connotations.”
The Tamster, the Force of Nature is another only-in-Washington personality, and embodies one of Leibovich's rules for success here: If no one's sure exactly what you do, you're doing it right. She'll raise money for an epilepsy charity founded by David Axelrod's wife. She'll tote around a video camera (the Tam Cam!) and do ambush interviews of Washington notables that she'll post online. And though she's best known for her exclusive party marking the White House Correspondents' Dinner every April, if you rate, Haddad will fete you whether you want it or not.
Leibovich shows some sympathy for Kurt Bardella, an insecure and insufferable Republican congressional press aide who passes Leibovich copious e-mails revealing the daily workings of an over-ambitious Hill staffer. "I loved the sheer unabashedness, even jubilance, of Kurt's networking and ladder climbing and determination," Leibovich writes. Bardella admitted that he was not so much a Democrat or Republican as "an opportunist."
Joe Biden and Paul Ryan
Leibovich does have some fun with the two 2012 veep nominees: He speculates that Joe Biden has a pronounced case of "manhood insecurities," and seems skeptical of the GOP annointing Rep. Paul Ryan as a "Man of Substance."
A politician-turned-lobbyist such as Trent Lott earns respect in "This Town," in part because he doesn't hide his motivations for sticking around after leaving the Senate in 2007. "Washington is where the money is," the former Republican majority leader told Leibovich. "That's generally what keeps people here."
“In 2006, Lott started a boutique lobbying firm with a former Senate colleague, John Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat who as a member of the House once memorably declared that his vote could not be bought but ‘could be rented.’ After a member of the House leadership called him a ‘cheap whore,’ Breaux protested, saying he was ‘not cheap.’ ”
Leibovich is scathing with Chris Dodd, who vowed he'd never lobby right up until he became head of the Motion Picture Association of America. (To be fair, the former Democratic senator explained to Leibovich that he made the no-lobbying promise "before this opportunity was on the radar screen.")
Mike AllenLeibovich depicts Politico's Mike Allen as an enabler of journalistic groupthink and the media-political complex. Through his daily Playbook blast, Allen "doles out morsels of proof that your brand is ticking, that your name is out there, that you’re alive in This Town."
Former U.S. senator Bob Kerrey, who almost took the $1.2 million job as chief of the Motion Picture Association of America, described it as “just being an overpaid lobbyist.” . . . Kerrey does not particularly like Washington . . . nor does he care about issues important to the MPAA, like piracy, he told Leibovich. “I don’t give a [expletive] about piracy, but for that money, I have to admit, I started getting a little interested in piracy.’’
Hillary Rodham Clinton
''I expected the predictable few minutes of happy talk about how 'Joe is great' . . . But then, to my surprise, Hillary slipped me this undercutting nugget on Uncle Joe: 'Being a vice president is a little like being a first lady,' Clinton said. 'You are there to support and serve the president.' Whoa. How deliciously, unexpectedly emasculating! And so completely on point to Biden's bridesmaid insecurities. . . . Was she undermining him with an eye to running against him in the 2016 Democratic primaries?''
"The mystique of having served at high levels of politics . . . had become instantly bankable. Rahm Emanuel resigned his job in the Clinton White House in 1998 to join the investment banking firm of Wasserstein Perella. Emanuel was not a ‘numbers guy,’ he admitted, but more of a ‘relationship banker.’ By the time he left to run for Congress in 2002, Emanuel has amassed more than $18 million
The South Carolina GOP senator bolted for the $1 million gig at the Heritage Foundation. "The following week, my colleague Carl Hulse ran into former Democratic senator Christopher Dodd at a movie screening at the I Street offices of the Motion Picture Association of America, the powerful film lobby Dodd now runs. "Boy, DeMint really cashed in,'' Carl said to the former Peace Corps volunteer. "He might be making more than you.'' "No, he's not,'' Dodd replied, laughing. "I checked.''
As Reliable Source quoted Leibovich's book: "Ronald Reagan’s last White House chief of staff was a vintage Washington character in his own right . . . riding the D.C. carousel for years, his Rolodex flipping with billable connections,” though it’s often said of him “it isn’t clear what he does,” Leibovich asserts — not an unusual condition among Washington “formers.” Leibovich writes that Duberstein “talks constantly on the phone to his close friend Colin Powell, and even more constantly to everyone else about what ‘Colin was just telling me,’ and loves to read his name in print. Finally: “The standard line on Duberstein is that he spent six and a half months as Reagan’s chief of staff and twenty-four years (and counting) dining out on it.”
"He was marked there as a singularly divisive figure and considered by many inside the campaign as the main captain of that Hindenberg. . . . No one doubted that Penn, despite his failings, would retain his permanent meal ticket in Washington. . . . It helped that he was a first-class suck-up, which the Clintons were particularly susceptible to, especially in memo form.''
The unauthorized list of names in the bookhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/outlook/this-town-unauthorized-index/