What Do You Hate About Beltway Culture? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 27 2012 @ 6:45pm

Before heading to the Correspondents’ festivities this weekend, fellow national security reporter Eli Lake responds to Spencer:

Readers join the debate:

I listened to Ackerman’s epic screed on Beltway culture and took note of one quote: “The almost aggressive insulting of one’s intelligence that marks successful political discourse and combat and media discourse.” I thought about that when I saw the gang on “Morning Joe” seriously discussing this story on Politico: “Why Jeb Bush doesn’t want to be vice president”

The lede: “He’s the GOP vice presidential pick that Democrats fear most — a brassy choice who would likely deliver his crucial home state, boost the ticket with Hispanics and Catholics and appeal to both conservatives and independents. The problem: Jeb Bush apparently doesn’t want the job.”

We then get paragraph after paragraph of a discussion of Bush’s positive qualities from named and unamed Republican operatives and Bush supporters, many saying they’d wish he was the Presidential nominee, not just the possible VP. We’re told, “The case for Bush is straightforward: nobody else offers his combination of political appeal, policy chops and a record of accomplishment.” (Strangely enough, there’s no actual reporting of data that demonstrates Jeb Bush is the VP pick that Democrats fear most.)

But, sadly, we learn that Bush won’t make himself available because he prefers to keep his family out of the spotlight, focus on serious policy issues…and make money through consulting and speeches. Oh, by the way, finally on the third page, in the eighth to last paragraph, Jonthan Martin manages to fit in this sentence: “Bush is not without a downside. Even though his admirers are confident that he’d be seen by voters as his own man, his last name would remind the country of his brother’s presidency and raise uncomfortable questions about political royalism.” “Bush is not without a downside.”

Please don’t let Spencer read this. He might spontaneously implode.

Another writes:

Okay, I was born in DC, where the Trader Joe’s is now, and I lived in the city for 24 years. Even now that my ID is from another state, I think of it as just a temporary blip away from my beloved, taxed-without-representation home. I am the daughter of lawyers, and I even went to one of those vilified fancy private schools (even if I grew up in an area known more for its drug dealers and race riots), so presumably this should be right up my alley.

But Ackerman’s rant doesn’t ring true at all. What it sounds like is that he hates is the culture of his job. I don’t think D.C., of all places, is devoid of class critiques, especially not in the local media, nor do I think that somehow there is an American urban haven outside of the Beltway that deals better with privilege and the clashes of race and gender and money. He calls D.C. “wonderful,” but little of his rant seems concerned with the city itself.

The culture of a narcissistic and over-educated industry that deals with money and power is not somehow unique to the Beltway, even if transplants pretend like the world of cocktail parties and expense accounts and meetings with military brass is viable only in the rarefied air of Metro tunnels, heated by the humid weight of July. People often do move to get close to that world, the same way they do to New York, or San Francisco, or Los Angeles. But those cities have personalities and neighborhoods that are acknowledged in popular circles. They’re places you come from, and places you return home to, after your stint in mysterious D.C. – no decent bagels! The pizza! Anacostia! The cost of schooling! Is it to much to ask for a more personal critique of the varied Beltway worlds?

Even worse, to slam D.C. for calling it the Metro, because we’re not a real city with a real subway? Dude, if you’re going to call out public transit, complain about the late night hours or the lack of white people on the buses. But every city has a nomenclature for its transit systems and I doubt anyone would get huffy over Chicago’s “El.” No words spent on the restaurant culture that allows expensive yet middling food in large, opulent spaces to pop up downtown, only to be regurgitated every election cycle or so? Or the still-ravenous hordes of summer associates and badly-paid interns at non-profits who are flung into D.C.’s insane rental market, and who drink their student loans away on H St.? The alphabet soup of federal offices?

I appreciate his concern about the tendency to label Washingtonians as some sort of stunted breed of mutants by many outside media markets, but he just spent three minutes doing basically the same thing. Somehow I doubt Wired’s readers have any greater appreciation for the conflation of “the Beltway” and the diverse 600,000 residents who live there now than they did before.

I’m sorry, but this just really struck me the wrong way. Any chance you would highlight some of D.C.’s better points in future blog posts?