Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator, is here. She tells me she is in town to meet with Emily's List, but declines to say whether that means she's going to run for governor of Texas.
Carl Hulse, the jolly, mop-haired Washington editor of the Times, is roaming around with a yellow plastic maraca. Why does Carl Hulse have a maraca?
"Do you know someone named Kurt?" my husband asks. My husband, a youthful-looking Japanese-American who does not work in politics, has twice been mistaken for Kurt Bardella, the Korean-American congressional staffer who plays a major role in This Town. The hosts solved the invitation dilemma by inviting everybody, but I do not see Kurt here. I also do not see Bob (Barnett) or Mikey (Allen) or Tammy (Haddad), some of the book's other dubious characters. Washington values being a good sport about things, but Kurt and Bob and Mikey and Tammy are maybe still a little sore. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, comes off in the book as an antidote to all the phoniness, endearingly crusty and weird. He is not here, but I hear he has read the book and wants to meet Bardella.
I strike up a conversation with a doctor who is here with another journalist. A civilian! What do they think of us? He has not read This Town, but he read the excerpt (about Kurt Bardella) in the Times Magazine, and he did not find it infuriating or repulsive or sad; he found it funny. This is perhaps the scariest prospect to the rapacious climbers of this town -- that we lack even the power to piss anybody off. I feel obligated to remind the doctor that there are taxpayer dollars at stake.
I am talking to Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post on the front porch when Sally Quinn approaches, wearing large and very sparkly earrings. Portrayed in the book as the doyenne of a declining Washington social scene, Quinn once wrote a column in the Post about the scheduling of her son's wedding. She wants to talk to Tumulty about Anthony Weiner, whom she finds "totally appalling." Impressively, despite her long tenure in the capital, Sally Quinn retains the ability to be shocked.
Tumulty has lots of meticulously reported gossip about how the Weiner thing is going over in Clintonworld, all of which will be in the morning's Post. I try to contribute to the conversation, but Quinn does not turn toward me even once, and continues to converse with Tumulty as though I were not there.
Word goes around that the author is going to make remarks. (Not "speak," like a normal person might say, but "make remarks," which is what staffers say when a politician is about to make a speech.) Everybody is sweating in the under-air-conditioned room. Peter Baker, the Times White House correspondent, says, "Thank you all for coming to Mark's acting-out of his book." Everybody laughs.
David Leonhardt, the Times' Washington bureau chief, says Leibovich was moved to write the book by the "vaguely late-Roman character of our current prosperity, even as the country is suffering." He plugs a collection to which he and Leibovich both contributed. David Plotz, the editor of Slate, discloses that he and his wife and Leibovich and his wife have daughters who are best friends, and that the two families share a minivan. "This book is about deplorable people doing deplorable things, and it is never not a pleasure," he says.