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Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway
Cover of Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway
Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway
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Just in time, Dave Barry supplies the wholly original, much needed history and guide to the new American politics and its three capitals, Washington, D.C., Austin, and South Florida. No surprise: it's hilarious.

Understanding the urgent need for a deeply thoughtful balanced book to explain our national political process, Dave Barry has not even come close. Though he himself has covered many campaigns, run for President several times, and run for cover at the rainy inauguration of George W. Bush (the man will spare nothing for his art) Barry has instead outdone himself.

Below the Beltway includes Barry's stirring account of how the United States was born, including his version of a properly rewritten Declaration (When in the course of human events it behooves us, the people, not to ask "What can our country do for us, anyway?" but rather whether we have anything to fear except fear itself...) and a revised Constitution (Section II: The House of Representatives shall be composed of people who own at least two dark suits and have not been indicted recently.).

Dave also cracks the income tax code, explains the growth(s) of government, congressional hearing difficulties, and the persistent rumors of the influence of capital in the Capitol. Among other civic contributions, his tour of Washington, D.C., should end school class trips forever.

From the Hardcover edition.

Just in time, Dave Barry supplies the wholly original, much needed history and guide to the new American politics and its three capitals, Washington, D.C., Austin, and South Florida. No surprise: it's hilarious.

Understanding the urgent need for a deeply thoughtful balanced book to explain our national political process, Dave Barry has not even come close. Though he himself has covered many campaigns, run for President several times, and run for cover at the rainy inauguration of George W. Bush (the man will spare nothing for his art) Barry has instead outdone himself.

Below the Beltway includes Barry's stirring account of how the United States was born, including his version of a properly rewritten Declaration (When in the course of human events it behooves us, the people, not to ask "What can our country do for us, anyway?" but rather whether we have anything to fear except fear itself...) and a revised Constitution (Section II: The House of Representatives shall be composed of people who own at least two dark suits and have not been indicted recently.).

Dave also cracks the income tax code, explains the growth(s) of government, congressional hearing difficulties, and the persistent rumors of the influence of capital in the Capitol. Among other civic contributions, his tour of Washington, D.C., should end school class trips forever.

From the Hardcover edition.

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  • From the Introduction

    To do even a halfway decent book on a subject as complex as the United States government, you have to spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C. So the first thing I decided, when I was getting ready to write this book, was that it would not be even halfway decent.

    I decided this because I'm not comfortable in Washington. Don't get me wrong: Washington is a fine city, offering statues, buildings, and plenty of culture in the form of Thai restaurants. But when I'm in Washington, I always feel as though I'm the only person there who never ran for Student Council.

    I started feeling this way back in 1967, when, as a college student, I got a job in Washington as a summer intern at Congressional Quarterly, a magazine that, as the name suggests, came out weekly.

    I was totally unprepared for the Washington environment. I came from an all-male-college environment, where a person's standing in the community was judged on the basis of such factors as:

    -Was he a good guy?
    -Would he let you borrow his car?
    -Would he still be your friend if your date threw up in his car?

    But when I got to Washington I discovered that even among young people, being a good guy was not the key thing: The key thing was your position on the great Washington totem pole of status. Way up at the top of this pole is the president; way down at the bottom, below mildew, is the public. In between is an extremely complex hierarchy of government officials, journalists, lobbyists, lawyers, and other power players, holding thousands of minutely graduated status rankings differentiated by extremely subtle nuances that only Washingtonians are capable of grasping.

    For example, Washingtonians know whether a person whose title is "Principal Assistant Deputy Undersecretary" is more or less important than a person whose title is "Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary," or "Principal Deputy to Deputy Assistant Secretary," or "Deputy to the Deputy Secretary," or "Principal Assistant Deputy Undersecretary," or "Chief of Staff to the Assistant Assistant Secretary." (All of these are real federal job titles.)
    Everybody in Washington always seems to know exactly how much status everybody else has. I don't know how they do it. Maybe they all get together in some secret location and sniff one another's rear ends. All I know is, back in my internship summer of 1967, when I went to Washington parties, they were nothing like parties I'd become used to in college. I was used to parties where it was not unusual to cap off the evening by drinking bourbon from a shoe, and not necessarily your own shoe. Whereas the Washington parties were serious. Everybody made an obvious effort to figure out where everybody else fit on the totem pole, and then spent the rest of the evening sucking up to whoever was higher up. I hated it. Of course, one reason for this was that nobody ever sucked up to me, since interns rank almost as low as members of the public.

    Today I have many good Washington friends, and I know that not everyone who lives there is a status-obsessed, butt-kissing toad. But there are still way too many people there who simply cannot get over how important they are. And do you want to know why they think they're important? Because they make policy! To the rest of America, making policy is a form of institutional masturbation; to Washingtonians, it is productive work. They love to make policy. They have policy out the wazoo. They can come up with a policy on anything, including the legal minimum size of the holes in Swiss cheese.

    A good depiction of the Washington worldview, I think, is the hit TV show The West Wing. Don't get me wrong: I think this show is well...

About the Author-
  • Dave Barry was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for being, as The New York Times said, "the funniest man in America." His home paper is the Miami Herald; his syndicate services hundreds of other newspapers. (This book is all original, not a collection of columns.) He lives, by no coincidence, in Florida.

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    Random House Publishing Group
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