Thursday, June 26, 2014

"Beltway" denial

Elizabeth Drew has done a whole essay to deny there's any validity to the notion of "the Beltway" as a conventional-wisdom consensus among politicians and Washington reporters, The Beltway Myth NYR Blog 06/24/2014.

She doesn't mention the concept so many DFH bloggers use, the "Beltway Village" or "the Village" for short, much less give Digby credit for coming up with it.

She doesn't cite the Ur-text for the concept, Sally Quinn's infamous column about what tacky outsiders Bill and Hillary Clinton were in Washington, In Washington, That Letdown Feeling Washington Post 11/02/1998. That column featured the classic quote from the man who gave his name to a closely related concept, High Broderism:

"He [Bill Clinton] came in here and he trashed the place," says Washington Post columnist David Broder, "and it's not his place."
Here's how Quinn herself described the gathering she's describing there:

When Establishment Washingtonians of all persuasions gather to support their own, they are not unlike any other small community in the country.

On this evening, the roster included Cabinet members Madeleine Albright and Donna Shalala, Republicans Sen. John McCain and Rep. Bob Livingston, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, PBS's Jim Lehrer and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, all behaving like the pals that they are. On display was a side of Washington that most people in this country never see. For all their apparent public differences, the people in the room that night were coming together with genuine affection and emotion to support their friends -- the Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt and his wife, CNN's Judy Woodruff, whose son Jeffrey has spina bifida.

But this particular community happens to be in the nation's capital. And the people in it are the so-called Beltway Insiders -- the high-level members of Congress, policymakers, lawyers, military brass, diplomats and journalists who have a proprietary interest in Washington and identify with it.

They call the capital city their "town."
Drew's piece does not include the following words and phrases: Whitewater, Iraq War, WMDs, Maverick McCain, Al Gore, Simpson, Bowles, the Grand Bargain, or "entitlements," all famous Village obsessions on which their general consensus was somewhere between badly wrong and nuts.

She doesn't reflect on how it came to be that Maureen Dowd, David "Bobo" Brooks and Little Tommy Friedman are considered Thought Leaders and Very Serious People.

She never refers to Gene Lyons or his book Fools for Scandal, or the one he co-authored with Joe Conason, The Hunting of the President, both of which tell the story of how the Quality Press followed a little band of sleazy Arkansas segregationists off the cliff known as Whitewater.

But she does tell us there are teachers and people who repair shoes in Washington. So "the Beltway" is a nonsense concept. Or something.

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