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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Talking With Mark Leibovich: How Bad Is It In D.C.? D.C. The Beltway As Elysium.

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How bad has it become inside the Beltway?

Pretty bad, for all the reasons discussed in my column today, which concerns the new book This Town by the New York Times Magazine’s national correspondent Mark Leibovich.

The transcript of my long interview with Leibovich from Wednesday’s show is here.

Thanks to everyone who emailed or send a DM about the interview.  Here’s the key exchange, the deep problem with D.C. these days:

HH: [I]n this book, you talk about McChrystal a little bit, but at all these parties, there is no sense that there is a terrible war underway in which thousands of Americans have died, and thousands more have been terribly injured. And I thought to myself if a book was written about Washington, D.C., ’39-’46, like David Brinkley wrote Washington Goes To War.

ML: Right.

HH: It would have infused every page. And it’s just not here. What do you make of that?

ML: Here’s what I would make of that. When you live in Washington today, and I think this was probably, this was true five years ago, too. There was no sense that a war was going on then, either. I mean, this is not just me. It’s just, there is never, except for in the period immediately after 9/11, maybe actually, I would say, a year after 9/11, and maybe the first few years of the Iraq war, there was never a, there has not been a wartime sense in Washington beyond the rhetoric. I mean, people have said we are at war. Both President Bush and President Obama have said we are at war quite a bit. But that has never really taken hold as a sort of a cultural sensibility of Washington. And I don’t quite know why. I mean, I guess I’m just as guilty of that here, but I think maybe one of the things that I’m responding to almost perhaps unconsciously is that a sense of wartime does not permeate the culture today in any way, except in some pretty sort of cloistered rooms, whether they’re hearing rooms or policy rooms, and which is not to say no one cares about it, because people do. But it’s not something that is, I mean, if you look at, if you interview, if you look at polls, I mean, Afghanistan was not one of the top three issues that voters cared about in 2012. I mean, so I don’t know, I guess that would be my answer to that.

And there is the problem.  “No sense that a war was going on” accurately reflects the Beltway zeitgeist, even though there is a very real, very deadly war going on, just like there is a very enormous 17 trillion dollar debt accumulated and a bizarre, completely dysfunctional blob of an Obamacare roll-out underway.

D.C. has become Elysium.  Consequences to follow.


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