Episode 111, with guest Mark Leibovich, author of THIS TOWN

Mark Leibovich is our guest this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: July 20, 2013 on SiriusXM “POTUS” Channel 124.
PoliOptics airs regularly on POTUS on Saturdays at 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm.
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Show also available for download on Apple iTunes by clicking here

Every week as our show opens, our theme music pots down and we come on with the (hopefully) familiar refrain:

Thanks for joining us as we pull back the curtain on the events that shape American politics and drive the images and headlines. PoliOptics – the only show of its kind on the air today and you hear it first on POTUS.

For 110 episodes prior to this one, we’ve made that claim – pulling back the curtain on the events that shape American politics. Truth be told, it’s bit of a boast. A crow. As Samuel C. Brownstein, the godfather of SAT prep books and the grandfather of Mark Leibovich, might write…a prevarication.

I can’t hide the fact that I left Washington, D.C., the burg fashioned as This Town in Mark’s new book, exactly 10 years ago, long before YouTube, Facebook and Twitter democratized and socialized it for we, the unwashed masses.

Yes, I try to pull back the curtain, as an outside observer, and I encourage our guests to be open and candid; to talk authentically and genuinely. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Speaking for myself, my insiderness is a decade old, if I ever had it in the first place. Maybe, in  a way, we’re all insiders now. In the age of Twitter, when I can live inside the feed of Jeffrey Goldberg or Leibo, I feel more connected today to the inside of Washington than I ever felt living there for 12 years in the nineties, when I worked in the White House, and the early part of the Bush 43 years, when I worked at Penn & Schoen, one of the better-known DC political consultancies.

How far inside can I really get? From my perch in New York City, despite my Twitter feed, I’m in no better position to pull back the curtain on Washington than the other 310 million people who live outside the district itself and its surrounding opulent zip-codes. And even within that zone, all but a few basis points of the local population have ever been to a party at the former home of Robert Todd Lincoln. And if you even have to ask who today owns the place at 3014 N Street in Georgetown, well, sorry, you’re not a member of The Club. And neither am I.

But Mark Leibovich, Chief National Correspondent of the New York Times Magazine does carry that card, having plied his trade there for the Washington Post and The Times for the last sixteen years. So even if Lois Romano takes Leibo to task for violating unspoken social codes, to the extent they exist, he is one club member who, with his just-published book, truly does pull back the curtain for all of us.

Two notes of “Full Disclosure”:

  1. This is a big week for Leibo as his book is now on shelves and he’s promoting it feverishly. Many reviews and stories by Club-admitted reporters acknowledge their relationship with Mark by, in This Town-speak, admitting that they know him by his abbreviated surname “Leibo.” I admit to calling Mark Leibovich by “Leibo” (and other nicknames) for the better part of 45 years. We grew up on the same block in Waban, Mass. and have been close friends (minus the occasional donnybrook, precipitated by one of my trademark tantrums – both favored words from our past, among many others, that make it into This Town) for almost the entirety of our sentient lives. I make no bones about being one of Leibo’s biggest fans. I will go further by saying that, of my feelings for Leibo, the statement of Gore Vidal that Mark uses in This Town does not apply: “Success is not enough. One’s friends must fail.” I’m thrilled for Mark’s success.
  2. There may be some irony in me lavishing praise on Leibo and This Town and inviting him to share stories from his book for an hour on our show while, at the same time, as you look on the right hand column of this page, you will note that many of those that come under Leibo’s fairly harsh scrutiny have also appeared on this program, also receiving my lavish praise. Well, I am neither a working journalist nor a government employee nor a resident of This Town. I am, in the broad definition Leibo provides in This Town, a “former” (and a formerly low level one at that!), having served in the Clinton White House from 1993 to 1997. I can say proudly and truthfully that I like and respect everyone who has ever appeared on this program. From my perch in New York, a few hundred miles from this town, I delight in acknowledging that I can have my cake, and eat it too!
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