Book Excerpt: 'Washington,' By Meg Greenfield

Posthumous Portrayal of D.C. As 'High School' With Players Labeled As 'The

Good Child (Gore), The Head Kid (Dole), The Protege (Mondale),' and Others



Apr 29, 2001, 01:00 ET from Newsweek

    NEW YORK, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- "Washington," a posthumous portrait by
 Meg Greenfield, the late Newsweek Columnist and Washington Post's Editorial
 Page Editor, conveys what she learned about living in the capital and covering
 it as a reporter for over four decades.  The May 7 issue of Newsweek (on
 newsstands Monday, April 30) excerpts the book Greenfield created in secret
 before her death in 1999, portraying political Washington as a high school and
 identifying the principal species in the capital subculture.
     (Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20010429/HSSU001 )
     For example, she labels ex-Senate Republican leader Bob Dole as "the head
 kid," those people who are organizers of the caucus, chairmen of the
 committees, folks who know how to mobilize a bunch of peers; "The good child"
 is one like former Vice President Al Gore, "the ones in whom the parents
 reposed special pride and who gave them many a beaming hour in the school
 auditorium;" there is also "the protege," the ones who go to Washington with
 reputations as awesome homework-doers who, at least until very recent times,
 did not mind accepting a long period of apprenticeship, like Walter Mondale
 when he was protege to Hubert Humphrey; she also describes "the prodigy, the
 maverick, the image-maker and the defier."  Greenfield writes:
     "Political Washington is made up largely of people who had been extremely
 successful children ... We don't get many unsuccessful children here.  On the
 contrary, what we tend to get are the hall monitors, teacher's pets, 4-H Club
 award winners, the Most Likely to Succeed, the most good-looking (but in the
 way of an old clothing ad).  Nevertheless, when these people arrive in
 Washington, they are shocked to find that some other prizewinning mama's
 darling is about to overtake them.  Washington figures always believe they are
 on professional probation.  They feel driven to establish, every day of their
 working lives, their basic claim to be where they are.  They do this by press
 leaks, endless self-promotion, grandstanding gestures and subtle, preemptive
 strikes at enemies real, potential and wholly imagined.  This is not the
 prescription for a grounded, serene life, let alone an ethical one ... But in
 Washington, people must pretend that the grand and petty struggles for
 position, which consume so much of their energy, never even happened."
     Contributing Editor Michael Beschloss, who was Greenfield's literary
 executor and contributes the Afterward to "Washington," was one of the few
 people who knew of the book's existence.  He says he believes Greenfield kept
 the book a secret because "having never written a book before, even this
 outwardly self-assured woman wanted to be able to abort the project, if
 necessary.  More important, from the moment she arrived in Washington in 1961,
 I think she was determined to preserve an inner chamber of her life that could
 not be disturbed by the human carnival going on around her."
 
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SOURCE Newsweek
    NEW YORK, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- "Washington," a posthumous portrait by
 Meg Greenfield, the late Newsweek Columnist and Washington Post's Editorial
 Page Editor, conveys what she learned about living in the capital and covering
 it as a reporter for over four decades.  The May 7 issue of Newsweek (on
 newsstands Monday, April 30) excerpts the book Greenfield created in secret
 before her death in 1999, portraying political Washington as a high school and
 identifying the principal species in the capital subculture.
     (Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20010429/HSSU001 )
     For example, she labels ex-Senate Republican leader Bob Dole as "the head
 kid," those people who are organizers of the caucus, chairmen of the
 committees, folks who know how to mobilize a bunch of peers; "The good child"
 is one like former Vice President Al Gore, "the ones in whom the parents
 reposed special pride and who gave them many a beaming hour in the school
 auditorium;" there is also "the protege," the ones who go to Washington with
 reputations as awesome homework-doers who, at least until very recent times,
 did not mind accepting a long period of apprenticeship, like Walter Mondale
 when he was protege to Hubert Humphrey; she also describes "the prodigy, the
 maverick, the image-maker and the defier."  Greenfield writes:
     "Political Washington is made up largely of people who had been extremely
 successful children ... We don't get many unsuccessful children here.  On the
 contrary, what we tend to get are the hall monitors, teacher's pets, 4-H Club
 award winners, the Most Likely to Succeed, the most good-looking (but in the
 way of an old clothing ad).  Nevertheless, when these people arrive in
 Washington, they are shocked to find that some other prizewinning mama's
 darling is about to overtake them.  Washington figures always believe they are
 on professional probation.  They feel driven to establish, every day of their
 working lives, their basic claim to be where they are.  They do this by press
 leaks, endless self-promotion, grandstanding gestures and subtle, preemptive
 strikes at enemies real, potential and wholly imagined.  This is not the
 prescription for a grounded, serene life, let alone an ethical one ... But in
 Washington, people must pretend that the grand and petty struggles for
 position, which consume so much of their energy, never even happened."
     Contributing Editor Michael Beschloss, who was Greenfield's literary
 executor and contributes the Afterward to "Washington," was one of the few
 people who knew of the book's existence.  He says he believes Greenfield kept
 the book a secret because "having never written a book before, even this
 outwardly self-assured woman wanted to be able to abort the project, if
 necessary.  More important, from the moment she arrived in Washington in 1961,
 I think she was determined to preserve an inner chamber of her life that could
 not be disturbed by the human carnival going on around her."
 
                       (Read Newsweek's news releases at
              http://www.Newsweek.MSNBC.com.  Click "Pressroom.")
 
 
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -- Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X12728498
 
 SOURCE  Newsweek