Synopses & Reviews
Washington’s most acerbic (and feared) columnist, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, skewers the peculiar and alien tribal culture of politics.
Deep within the forbidding land encircled by the Washington Beltway lives the tribe known as Homo politicus. Their ways are strange, even repulsive, to civilized human beings; their arcane rites often impenetrable; their language coded and obscure. Violating their complex taboos can lead to sudden, harsh, and irrevocable punishment. Normal Americans have long feared Homo politicus, with good reason. But fearless anthropologist Dana Milbank has spent many years immersed in the dark heart of Washington, D.C., and has produced this indispensable portrait of a bizarre culture whose tribal ways are as hilarious as they are outrageous.
Milbank’s anthropological lens is highly illuminating, whether examining the mating rituals of Homo politicus (which have little to do with traditional concepts of romantic love), demonstrating how status is displayed in the Beltway’s rigid caste system (such as displaying a wooden egg from the White House Easter Egg Roll) or detailing the precise ritual sequence of human sacrifice whenever a scandal erupts (the human sacrificed does not have to be the guiltiest party, just the lower ranked).
Milbank’s lacerating wit mows down the pompous, the stupid, and the corrupt among Democrats, Republicans, reporters, and bureaucrats by naming names. Every appalling anecdote in this book is, alas, true.
"Mix one part freshman anthropology with nine parts Washington insider politics and you'll get this caustic sendup of 'Potomac Man.' Veteran Washington Post political reporter Milbank rummages through a bagful of (sometimes forced) ethnographic clichs consultants and pollsters are shamans, lobbyists are the Beltway version of Melanesian Big Men but takes none of them seriously. These pseudoscholarly conceits are just pegs on which to hang his colorful accounts of recent Washington scandals, humiliations and felonies. Many of these, like the three-ring circus surrounding superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, are well known, but the author also spotlights the everyday antics of congressmen and the behind-the-scenes skullduggery that propels the ship of state. His contempt is resolutely bipartisan, targeting both Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy for his drug-induced vehicular mishaps and Dick Cheney for concocting 'folk tales' duly debunked by Milbank to sell the Iraq War. Sometimes the author's derision seems knee-jerk rather than considered; when he diagnoses Democrat Harry Reid with 'Potomac-variant Tourette's syndrome' because the senator uses phrases like 'intractable war in Iraq,' one wonders about the media's role in enforcing Washington's euphemistic double-talk. Still, Milbank knows where the fossils are buried and offers a canny, entertaining field guide to the manners and misdeeds of the political species." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The most anti-Bush reporter currently assigned to the White House by a major news organization." National Review
"Milbank hilariously compares the beliefs and rituals of primitive cultures with things that happen every day inside the Beltway... The political-tell-all-as-cultural study conceit wears surprisingly well; Milbank's comparisons are sharp and funny enough to keep it fresh." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Dana Milbank is a Washington Post
staff writer and author of the "Washington Sketch" column. He won the White House Correspondent Association's Beckman award for "repeated excellence in White House coverage" and the National Press Club award for humor writing. He was named one of the nation's top political journalists by Columbia Journalism Review
Milbank also serves as a political analyst for MSNBC. Before joining the Post, Milbank was a senior editor of the New Republic and a staff reporter of the Wall Street Journal. Milbank also has written for the New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine and other publications. He is author of Smashmouth, a book about the 2000 presidential campaign. Milbank is a graduate of Yale University, where he received his B.A. cum laude in political science. Milbank lives in Washington with his wife and daughter.