This Town, Revisited

Mark Leibovich
Mark Leibovich, Washington’s preferred bard. Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
July 19, 2022

Last summer, when I kicked off this letter from Washington, I turned to my old friend and drinking buddy, Mark Leibovich, for a conversation about #thistown. If he weren’t so kind and supportive a colleague, if he weren’t so damn interesting and fun to talk to, I would be absolutely unable to read his writing out of pure, neon green envy. And I have told him this to his face.

I mean, who can forget his blistering, bullseye coinages, like “power mourners,” from his book This Town? The book, like all of Mark’s political journalism, is satire in its most perfect—that is, deliciously vicious—form. (I had to take a minute to compose myself when I got to the description, in Mark’s terrific new book, Thank You for Your Servitude, of Stephen Miller as “the president’s droopy-eyed deportation zealot.“)

No one deserves a Leibovich skewering more than the permanent—and permanently intertwined—political and media classes of Washington, but this sequel to This Town has a decidedly darker, more ominous feel. And why wouldn’t it? It starts with Donald Trump’s plot to overturn a free and fair democratic election, and take American democracy down in a cloud of bear spray. It’s the kind of satire that isn’t really all that funny anymore, and hasn’t been for the last six years—and now that we know what it would all lead to, probably shouldn’t have been funny a decade ago, either. And yet, Leibovich doesn’t fail us in Thank You for Your Servitude, finding the moments of irony and dark humor even as he chronicles how all of us, led by the Republican Party, rushed toward the abyss, us journalists following close behind with our tape recorders.