Washington: More Incestuous Than Ever — and Proud of It!

Politico gives the big "Behind the Curtain" splash today to a shameless embrace of shameless DC navel-gazing, and just in time for the White House Correspondents' Dinner, the annual peak of media loathing. So who's really the most incestuous here?

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A lot of famous-for-Washington people will be publicly shamed for their self-promotion and suck-uppery in a book by The New York Times's Mark Leibovich, which will be published in July. To get out in front of this shaming, Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei are shamelessly embracing their shamelessness in a story about all the Washington people who are nervous they'll be skewered in the book. They are among the shamed. Politico, it turns out, is happy to be the public face of the horrible Washington monsters.

Of one highly successful networker, Tammy Haddad, and Leibovich's reporting on her social networking, Politico's "Behind the Curtain" team writes, "Come to think of it, she has thrown parties for virtually every other person and cause we know." Of the lawyer Robert Barnett, they say, "Come to think of it, he represents almost everybody we know." They know they'll look bad in the book. "It is clear that POLITICO and Playbook are portrayed as enablers of the culture Leibovich lampoons. (See: this column)."

Allen and VandeHei have some level of self-awareness, because even though the book doesn't come out for months, the story got the big Politico splash just before the White House Correspondents' Dinner, the annual peak of media loathing. This is an annual event at which ugly people in bad fashion will parade around like celebrities with actual celebrities. Some call it "nerd prom," but that's an insult to nerds. The glitzy dinner perfectly distills why people hate reporters. It can seem like they do more sucking up to powerful people than exposing their corruption and hypocrisy. It's like how Robert Redford's portrait of Bob Woodward in All the President's Men — the scruffy, dogged, outsider reporter — is routinely undercut by the real Bob Woodward.

In a video accompanying the Politico story, Mike Allen refers to Leibovich's book as "his incest book," a title that's catchier than the real one, This Town. "This is a self-obsessed city and most of our friends are self-obsessed," VandeHei says. Allen might be particularly obsessed with Leibovich, since he won a National Magazine Award for his Times story naming Allen "The Man the White House Wakes Up To." But Allen and VandeHei try to cast Leibovich as more self-obsessed. He's "at once a supremely confident and strangely self-conscious writer," they write. Washington people, Allen says, are trying to remember "everything they said to Mark at a party for the last four years — and he's at all of them." They might be shamelessly incestuous — and there's nothing wrong with that — but he's worse!

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.