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Homo Politicus: The Strange and Scary Tribes that Run Our Government Paperback – July 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This amusing and shrewd look at Washington politicians, bureaucrats and even Milbank's fellow reporters is endlessly entertaining, and Johnny Heller is in on the joke. He has a familiarity with the material as if he wrote it himself, allowing him to capture the true intent of every moment, be it comedy, melodrama or purely informational. His pace is swift and his average guy tone makes this reading work. His conversation is engaging and enjoyable; he seems to know when you're laughing and when you simply can't believe how inane politics can really be, and he's right there with you every step of the way for this fun, charming and true tale of Washington politics.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.


How Homo Politicus Sees Dana Milbank:

“The (Bush) Administration’s least favorite journalist. And it’s not hard to see why.”
The American Prospect

“Taking trash journalism to new heights.”
—Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

“Many of us do believe Dana is rabid…there is probably nothing human, at least, that could balance Dana. I have suggested a close examination of various reptiles, and it may be that we need to go to the Galapagos Islands to find something appropriate.”
—Tom Edsall, former Washington Post colleague

“The most anti-Bush reporter currently assigned to the White House by a major news organization.”
National Review

“Washington PR folks, who would normally auction off their right arm to get the Washington Post to cover their boss’ press conference, know by now that having Dana Milbank show up is probably more of a curse than a blessing.”

“A wonder at the anthropology of this town and understanding the way the sociology of Washington works today.”
—Chris Matthews, host of Hardball

Wonkette poll—Dana Milbank is…
…emblematic of the deterioration of the American media. 12.1%
…the savior of American journalism. 13.5%
…a publicity whore. 74.4%

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (July 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767923782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767923781
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,179,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Theodore A. Rushton on December 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Politics is the art of the ego, with Congressional egos like an exercise in finger painting by kiddies run amok in the absence of grownups.

Every politician knows at least one thing: "I was elected by a majority." (Some know more than one thing.) One fact that never goes away is their "majority" vindication, proof enough of their superiority to all. Their ultimate answer to every argument is, "I was elected, you weren't."

In Washington, as in London, Ottawa, Berlin and any place where democracy has taken root, politics is the chaos of hundreds of self-righteous steroid-enhanced egos. Sorry folks, it's a fact. Normally, reporters cover only the results of such mayhem; this book is a rare first-hand insight into the messy process. Milbank is a gem, exposing the folly of egos without restraint or common sense. (Trust me. I've been there. He might have been at least mildly amused, if not somewhat delighted, in some examples of what I wrote, said or did. At least, I hope so.)

The first advice in covering politics is, "Don't foul your own nest." In other words, don't write about follies that embarass our esteemed elected representatives of the people. Write about results. Politicians thrive on stories about bills passed (or blocked), provided such stories have some of their wise or witty "cleaned up" quotes. The bulk of "political reporting" is duly sanitized to explain results, instead of the uncleaned mess. Think of potty-training or 'TidyBowl' at work, and you get the idea.

It's Prince Otto von Bismarck's "sausage" example; people don't want to know the greasy details of making sausage (or laws), they want to know only if it tastes good and is safe (or if the law won't hurt them too much).
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jan Lincoln on January 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I laughed right out loud as I read this book on an airplane. Loud enough for stares. I loved the creative approach of using an anthropological lens to look at the workings of Washington's government and its hangers-on. Creative. I'm not sure what the negative reviewers were expecting. Just reflecting our up-tight cultural world, I guess. If you want a funny, insightful analysis of the DC power relations that rings all to true, this is it. Relax. Enjoy. Come away enlightened. (Caveat: I am an anthropologist.)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By a reader on February 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book just barely gets three stars. It's not bad; but it could have been better.

I knew before I bought it that this was more of a political humor than a political science book. That's regrettable because Homo's anthropological conceit is worth a closer look.

What you get here, instead, is an extended series of personality sketches and vignettes describing all the flaps, gaffs, spats, scandals and outrages our "leaders" in Washington have subjected us to over the last eight years, give or take. Milbank attempts to group these into an absurdist pseudo-academic study of Beltway culture, but there's no real insight here, no attempt to see the forest through the trees. The chapters breeze by, and I got some yuks, but by the end, I wasn't satisfied.

And most, if not all, the stories and personalities are well known, or at least have been written about elsewhere. The few that haven't aren't interesting. Does anyone really care what pubs Democrats frequent and what restaurants Republicans dine at?

It feels like a rush job for Milbank. (My fingers keep wanting to type "Milkbank" for some reason.) Had he taken more time for research, he might have come up with something more memorable. At the very least, he would have been able to devote a section to Larry Craig.

Finally, is that Dick Cheney on the cover?
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Eric A. Isaacson on January 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Dana Milbank's latest book is written from the perspective of a social anthropologist studying the strange culture and customs of "Potomac Land," and its people, the "Homo politicus" or "Potomac Man" - really Washington, D.C., and its denizens. Milbank adopts, indeed, the tone of a Victorian anthropologist, writing about the strange practices of the "natives" with the Victorian outsider's typical conceit of presumed cultural superiority, comparing "Potomac man" to other non-Western cultures.

Such a parody might have been hilarious in 1928. It might have been funny still in 1958. But in 2008, it really does not work. Not in my opinion, at least. If twenty-first century readers miss the parody of Victorian style, as I fear most will, Milbank's comparisons of Washington, D.C. politics and beltway society to non-Western cultures and aboriginal societies are apt to come off as culturally insensitive - to say the least.

What's more, the affectation produces a stilted style that greatly detracts from the book's readability.

That Milbank's sharp wit nonetheless manages to redeem the book, is testimony to what a good writer he is.

He ably covers the scandals of the last few years, slinging mud at the Democrats with as much glee as he does at the Republicans. In fact, I'd advise against wearing white when you read this book. You might get splattered!.

Eric Alan Isaacson
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on February 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I know Dana Milbank mostly from his tv commentary, so it was a great treat to read his new book, "Homo Politicus". His tongue-in-cheek, but always dead on characterizations of those in Washington who purport to represent us and otherwise carry out the nation's business, are most welcome at a time when the president's and Congress's favorable ratings are at an all time low. The nation's capitol has never been short of those seeking self-aggrandizement and Milbank, always with a fine-tuned eye and ear, gives us "the goods" on so many of them. It's a wonder anything ever gets done down there.

Applying ancient and modern tribal behavior to the the men and women who serve in Washington and those attached to them is one of the aspects that make "Homo Politicus" so enjoyable. Milbank's flair as a writer is to tweak and he does so with aplomb. While generally more critical of the GOP, not surprisingly, the author reminds the reader that both sides can play the holier than thou game. If you follow politics, Milbank has an array of devils from which to choose in "Potomac Land". He features not only the well-known rogues in Congress but adds flavor when he cites certain bars and restaurants that cater only to Republicans or only to Democrats. The fact that the Bush twins could have so much influence on the night life in D.C. is remarkable...and funny. The chapter about the after hours party life is also as comical as it might be unbelievable, to an outsider. It's hard to pick a chapter that stands out more than another (because they're all good) but when the author gets going about the sexual peccadillos of the men and women in "Potomac Land"...well....then we get into some real comedy. But there is a serious side to all of this, too.
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