Read time: 2 minutes

Book Review: The Ways Of The Village Artfully Deconstructed In Meg Greenfield's 'Washington'

I don't remember who told me to read it, but Meg Greenfield's "Washington" is the best book about the Village I've ever read. (I highly recommend you

I don't remember who told me to read it, but Meg Greenfield's "Washington" is the best book about the Village I've ever read. (I highly recommend you get a copy.)


Greenfield, a Pulitzer prize winner and the Washington Post editorial page editor, wrote the book as she was dying from cancer; she kept it a secret from all but one of her friends. It was published posthumously in 1999.

And I can see why she waited. She's a sharply perceptive woman who sees people clearly, facades and all. Not only was she their colleague, she was their friend. The book is filled with the kind of thing you'd like to tell a really good friend about themselves -- if only they had the nerve to ask for your opinion.

If you've ever wondered why journalists don't ask politicians about obvious contradictions, or why so many whiz kids fizzle out once they're in political office, you'll appreciate her take.

She writes that high school is the only correct social analogy for Washington (we already knew that) but makes the incisive point that the District is filled with people who were very successful children. She breaks them down into types: The Good Child, The Head Kid, The Prodigy, and the Protege:

They will have developed instead the mediating-between-generations way of doing business, protecting the boss and appeasing contemporaries by telling them how much can be extracted by the boss. With that prop gone, newly elevated figures are expected to act boldly, to direct, to deliver, to have the brass to themselves utter the decisive words "yes" or "no" -- not to negotiate, Moses-like, with God for limited concessions.

[...] Years of exercising derivative power in a defensive, backstairs, non-accountable way have also unfitted the poor protege/prodigy for the elementary requirements of his new role -- the direct statement, the assertion of will or position, and above all, the concomitant acceptance of the murderous criticism that being in charge inevitably generates.

[...] ... The Washington child-politician, fully in charge and fully accountable at last, is utterly unaccustomed to being called anything other except an outstanding young person of exceptional promise -- no matter what his age.

She also foretold how the internet and the political imagemakers were going to distort the political process.

Yes, she was a creature of her time. But for the political junkie who asks not only what, but why, this book explains an awful lot.

Can you help us out?

For 17 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.

More C&L Coverage


New Commenting System

Our comments are now powered by Insticator. In order to comment you will need to create an Insticator account. The process is quick and simple. Please note that the ability to comment with a C&L site account is no longer available.

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.

Please Do Not Use the Login Link at the Top of the Site.

In order to comment you must use an Insticator account. To register an account, enter your comment and click the post button. A dialog will then appear allowing you create your account.

We will be retiring our Crooks and Liars user account system in January, 2021.

Thank you.
C&L Team