9781586480271 / 1586480278






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About the book:

Meg Greenfield is one of the legends of Washington, D.C. For more than three decades as a columnist and editor, writes Katharine Graham in a loving foreword, "she helped create the institutional voice of the Washington Post." This book, written secretly in the final two years of her life and now published posthumously, is a wonderfully incisive piece of work. Greenfield really understood the city she came to settle in, and she really understood people. Her observations are sharp and profound:

Public people almost eagerly dehumanize themselves. They allow the markings of region, family, class, individual character, and, generally, personhood that they once possessed to be leached away. At the same time, they construct a new public self that often does terrible damage to what remains of the genuine person. That is not because people here are bad or set out in the first place to become phonies, but rather because high politics in the city seems to reward the transformation. It is regarded as a measure of competence and required as a condition of success.
She has plenty to say about the media: "Journalists who persist in regarding themselves as thoroughly clean and the world around them as thoroughly dirty are guilty of more than misplaced moral vanity. They are also in danger of rendering themselves incapable of plausibly explaining what they are covering--except as further implied evidence of their own virtue." Greenfield was a powerful Washingtonian, but like so many Washingtonians--not least the elected lawmakers--she came from somewhere else (in her case, Seattle). In many ways, this book is a guide to keeping from going native, or, as historian Michael Beschloss nicely puts in an afterword, "how to live at the center of political and journalistic influence in Washington without losing your principles, detachment, or individual human qualities." Washington is part memoir, but mostly observation by a keen watcher and analysis by an acute mind. It stands to become a small classic on life in America's capital and, in a way, life anywhere. --John J. Miller

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