Mark Leibovich’s book on life inside Washington, writes Frank Rich, "is as much an indictment of the Democratic Establishment as it is of the Washington Establishment. And the two are often synonymous."
“When I am president,” Obama had said in 2008, “I will start by closing the revolving door in the White House that’s allowed people to use their administration job as a stepping-stone to further their lobbying careers.” Puzzling over how so many colleagues have strayed from this credo, the former press secretary Robert Gibbs has theorized that either “somehow we have all changed” or, alternatively, “maybe Washington changed us.” Whatever the explanation, it’s clear that the president himself has been either passive or ineffectual when it comes to exerting any moral authority over the White House alumni who’ve been streaming through the revolving door.
But this syndrome didn’t start with the Obama administration and won’t end with it. Perhaps the more useful question to ask is when and why this change came over Washington’s entire Democratic hierarchy. There have always been lobbyists in both parties, of course, and there have always been powerful Democratic influence peddlers to match their Republican counterparts. Clark Clifford, Robert Strauss, and Vernon Jordan—the respective pals of Truman, LBJ, and Bill Clinton—are among the most legendary Washington operators of the post–World War II era. But what once was an unsavory appendix to the legislative process has scaled up over the past three decades to become a dominant, if not the dominant, Washington private industry.