Citizens Of The Green Room: Profiles In Courage And Self-delusion

Paperback | November 10, 2015

byMark Leibovich

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From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller This Town: a collection of award-winning and finely detailed profiles of today’s most fascinating political, sports, and pop-culture figures.
 
Mark Leibovich returns to puncture the inflated personas of the powerful and reveal the lives, stories, and peculiarities behind their public masks. On subjects including Hillary Clinton, Glenn Beck, John Kerry, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, and John McCain, Leibovich maintains a refreshing conviviality even as he renders incisive and unflinching assessments. Confirming his reputation as “a master of the political profile” (The Washington Post), Citizens of the Green Room will delight fans of This Town and the legions of political junkies who avidly read Leibovich’s work in The New York Times Magazine.

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From the Publisher

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller This Town: a collection of award-winning and finely detailed profiles of today’s most fascinating political, sports, and pop-culture figures. Mark Leibovich returns to puncture the inflated personas of the powerful and reveal the lives, stories, and peculiarities behind their public m...

Mark Leibovich is The New York Times Magazine’s chief national correspondent. He lives with his family in Washington, D.C.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 8 × 5.5 × 0.5 inPublished:November 10, 2015Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0147516463

ISBN - 13:9780147516466

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INTRODUCTIONPublic Actors: Hillary Drank Two Glasses of Red WineEarly in my ramble as a political reporter, I would come back to the office after a trip to, say, a presidential debate, or a convention, or a campaign event with candidate so-and-so. Steve Reiss, my sagacious editor at the Washington Post’s Style section, would always begin his debriefing with the same question: “What was it like?” It struck me as a strange construction. He would not say, “How was your trip?” or “What’d you get?” or—in the case of an encounter with a profile subject—“What was he/she like?” He always said, “What was it like,” and after a while I took the “it” to incorporate the whole unnatural experience that these subjects endure on their daily high wires. In halting responses, I would share with Steve little stories and impressions and off-color details about my expeditions: how, say, John Edwards walked like a duck, or that Dick Cheney had no idea who John Travolta was, or that Nancy Pelosi had never heard of curly fries.Steve later observed that very little of what I shared with him in his office would ever wind up in my stories. Quite often there was good reason: ground rules (they were off the record), or good taste (former POW John McCain telling me a joke about prison rape), or the fact that Mike Huckabee’s scatological humor was ill-suited to a profile pegged to his new diet and nutrition book. But a lot of the good material also evaded print for bad reasons. It didn’t fit, in part because I was too attentive to the banal conventions of so much political reporting; I was too conscientious about including talking points, pro forma quotes from “experts” and the requisite “others disagree” paragraphs (on the one hand, on the other hand, etc.). Steve urged me to listen to the stories I was telling my friends, was telling him, and was myself chuckling at, and then to liberate them into print as often as I could.In the course of these conversations, I came to recognize that Steve was highlighting for me a basic dichotomy between what a reporter sees and what a reporter knows. The better the reporter becomes at integrating these, the more illuminating his material becomes. Whether he meant it or not, Steve was getting me to train my eyes and ears on the things that were revelatory rather than, say, dutiful (or merely quotable). I started listening differently to the people I was talking to, both in real time and on tape. Did Chris Matthews really just say that thing about Koreans? Did Haley Barbour just pat his wife on the ass as she walked by him? Did Teresa Heinz Kerry just snap at her husband again? I came to notice how nervous, glib, or confident they sounded; and I also learned how to interact with these people in a way that best elicited more authentic expressions. Over time, and this took years, I developed better senses to go to battle with. I also learned that a key to writing about people in public life is recognizing another core dichotomy: the one between what a subject wants to project to the world (and devotes a great deal of time, energy, and manpower to) and who they truly are. Clearly for the writer, the idea is to convey as much of the latter as possible and as little of the spin and bullshit of the former. For the public actor, the relentless challenge they endure in trying to manage that gap—what to reveal and what to withhold, what to emphasize and what to obscure—is a wholly consuming experience. In many ways, it defines their realities. Steve would always ask me another question, too. “What’s different about them?” By “them” he meant the public actors. They were often people of great renown and acclaim. They were recognized around town, usually Washington, DC, in those double-take instances that a public actor becomes an actual person before you. (Hey, isn’t that . . . ? It looks like Newt Gingrich. Or an overgrown kid playing Newt for Halloween? Yes, it is the real Newt—an actual sighting, just a few seconds ago, here at the Starbucks near the United Airlines counter at Reagan National Airport. And he is standing with someone who has the same silver-haired helmet on her head as his wife Callista does. So it must be Newt!)Public actors carry themselves with a jumpy expectation that they are being studied at all times. Often they are. They have a special sense that others are squinting in their directions. Their voices assume a deeper tone as if they are always speaking into a microphone. (“It’s good to see you again, Wolf.”) They walk faster. Their assistant will follow up with you later. They know the names of the makeup ladies and the valet guys and where the Snickers bars are kept in the green rooms.“The rich are different from you and me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote memorably in The Great Gatsby. And so are the citizens of the green room. After a while, they acquire a shiny otherness—a stately gaze, a sweeping pace of movement, and sometimes comet trails of entourages. They navigate life in a perpetual “on” state, as naturally as a trout inhabits a stream. And they sweep into green rooms, the safe habitat where upcoming TV guests, debate participants, and various lofty haircuts get touched up, miked, and fed before their spotlight turns. Political green rooms in particular embody the unreality these paragons endure. Unlike, say, a diva’s green room on Broadway or Van Halen’s on tour (sans brown M&M’s), political green rooms don’t guarantee privacy. In joint appearances or debate settings, combatants are often joined, awkwardly, in rich anthropological scenarios: like Howard Dean, John Edwards, and John Kerry jockeying in line outside a public backstage men’s room before a Democratic presidential debate. They are suspicious rivals (Dean eyeing Kerry for allegedly cutting him in line), but they also, clearly, all belong.Not everyone in a green room is a legal citizen of the place. It takes repeated exposure and a quiet sense developed over time. That is the vague path to citizenship in the green room, which becomes a proxy for being an accredited citizen of public life. You are seen around. Tip O’Neill—a Golden Green-Room God back in his day—used to diminish certain past-primers by saying, “You know, you never see him around anymore.” What could be more dismissive? Are they even still alive?Full citizenship in the green room has both advantages and killer burdens. “There is relentless scrutiny that now stalks not only people in politics but people in all kinds of public arenas,” Hillary Clinton said in an April 2014 speech in Portland, Oregon. “And it gives you a sense of being kind of dehumanized.” I was struck by her word choices, some of them jarring: “stalked” and, especially, “dehumanized.”I think of those studies about the effect of life in prison; inmates who are brutalized or placed in solitary confinement. “Dehumanized” gets thrown around in those contexts, too. What is it like to be a human object in a dehumanizing machine? To be a prisoner in makeup?Copyright 2014 by Mark Leibovich. Reprinted with permission from Blue Rider Press.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Citizens of the Green Room“Mark Leibovich profiles are like flaming Dr. Pepper shots. They’re great…  Leibovich’s profiles, read en masse, lay bare Washington’s formative paradox: You can’t fix D.C. unless you go there, and you can’t do well there without becoming everything that’s broken about it.” –Slate “Amusing and perceptive tales of the political animals in the zoo that is Washington…These essays and profiles are uniformly witty… Leibovich delivers full-dimensional portraits of these eccentric D.C. denizens…. Humorous, incisive and very droll.”—Kirkus "Leibovich, the chief national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, who specializes in profiles of people and places, brings together under one roof some of his best and most noteworthy profiles of American political and media figures...Fascinating fare for political wonks."—BooklistPraise for This Town"This Town is funny, it's interesting, and it is demoralizing ... I loved it as much as you can love something which hurts your heart."—John Oliver, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart“In addition to his reporting talents, Leibovich is a writer of excellent zest. At times his book is laugh-out-loud (as well as weep-out-loud). He is an exuberant writer, even as his reporting leaves one reaching for Xanax…[This Town] is vastly entertaining and deeply troubling.”—Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review "It's been the summer of This Town. What lingers from This Town is what will linger in Washington well after its current dinosaurs are extinct: the political culture owned by big money."—Frank Rich, New York Magazine"Many decades from now, a historian looking at where America lost its way could use This Town as a primary source."—Fareed Zakaria “Here it is, Washington in all its splendid, sordid glory…[Leibovich] seems to wear those special glasses that allow you to x-ray the outside and see what’s really going on. Start to finish, this is a brilliant portrait – pointillist, you might say, or modern realist. So brilliant that once it lands on a front table at Politics & Prose Leibovich will never be able to have lunch in this town again. There are also important insights tucked in among the barbs…So here’s to all the big mouths, big shots, big machers, and big jerks. In case you’re wondering, Mark Leibovich is on to every one of you, and his portrayal of This Town is spot on.” —David Shribman, The New York Times“In his new book This Town, Mark Leibovich commits an act of treason against the Washington establishment… Thoroughly entertaining… Leibovich is a keen observer and energetic writer.”—Reid Pillifant, New York Observer  “This Town is a frothy Beltway insider tell-all …rollicking fun and sharply written. A big, sprawling fun beach read of a book—snappy and well-crafted.”—Susan Gardner, The Daily Kos “This Town is as entertaining for the broader picture it paints of a capital that corrupts even the most incorruptible as it is for the salacious gossip that dominated early reviews. Books like Leibovich’s are important resources for historians who, a century from now, will use This Town as a trove of background information for a pivotal period when our politics became poisonous.”—Reid Wilson, The National Journal “Leibovich delivers the reportorial goods. He is in all the parties, and supplies a wildly entertaining anthrolopogical tour.”—Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine “Leibovich has written a very funny book about how horrible his industry can be… Uncommonly honest.”—David Weigel, Slate “[Leibovich] is a master of the political profile… This Town is as insidery as Game Change”—Carlos Lozada, Washington Post “Intensely anticipated…. [Leibovich] has a real affection for many of his characters… [and] also throws a few unapologetically hard punches.” —Ben Smith, Buzzfeed“Witty, entertaining….the book is enlightening on how journalism is practiced in Washington…This Town could also be source material for your book about what’s wrong with these horrible people and – more importantly, but also much more difficult – how to fix the culture that led to their ascendance….This Town is a funny book, but it should probably make you as angry and depressed as 'Two American Families'.” —Alex Pareene, Salon “For the sweaty, twitching, huddled masses of Washington gossip addicts, This Town is rife with such shiny nuggets, the literary equivalent of crack.”— Lloyd Grove, Newsweek/The Daily Beast “Corrosively funny and subtly subversive…. siren song of money and pseudo-celebrity ….irresistible."—Walter Shapiro, The American Prospect “Like a modern-day Balzac to US capital power players….hilarious….perceptive.” —Richard McGregor, Financial Times “A rollicking, if disconcerting, read.”—Denver Post “Provides a lancing, often hysterically funny portrait of the capital’s vanities and ambitions.” —The New Yorker “A common trope among conservatives is the 'cocktail party scene,' which Republican reformers encounter when they go to Washington and which lures them into selling out their beliefs. This Town provides plenty of evidence not only that those worries are grounded, but that it’s far worse than we imagined….[U]nusual and refreshing…. [A] successful and needed undertaking…. Leibovich enlivens his tedious subjects with a funny and vivid writing style…. he’s also an engaging storyteller. The last quarter of This Town, which dishes on Leibovich’s encounters with the major players from the 2012 election, is undeniably good reading… If you want to understand why you should wake up quivering with white-hot hatred for elite Washington, This Town is well worth your time.” —Matt Purple, The American Spectator “[A] sharp-eyed, funny and elegantly written takedown of Washington’s crass, insidery, back-scratching (by journalists and politicians alike) culture…. [T]he Tony Soprano of journalists…but with a heart.” —Margaret Carlson, Bloomberg News “This book has to be the book of the summer, open on the fat or flat bellies of Washington's privileged political elite at Rehoboth, Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket. Even if they are in it, or are looking for themselves in it with dread or delicious anticipation, a Washington version of narcissism, This Town is not to be missed.” —Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post Gazette“Not since Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers knocked New York society on its heels with its thinly fictionalized revelations of real players who had thought the author was their friend has a book so riled a city’s upper echelons.”—Lois Romano, Politico