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Homo Politicus: The Strange and Barbaric Tribes of the Beltway

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  132 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Washington’s most acerbic (and feared) columnist, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, skewers the peculiar and alien tribal culture of politics.

Deep within the forbidding land encircled by the Washington Beltway lives the tribe known as Homo politicus. Their ways are strange, even repulsive, to civilized human beings; their arcane rites often impenetrable; their language c
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published December 26th 2007 by Doubleday
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Funny, as Milbank always is. Essentially a repackaging of the interesting and newsworthy political headlines of the last decade, through the lens of anthropological themes. Sometimes forced, but usually incisive, funny, and sprinkled with anecdotes you hadn't heard before.
This wasn't as funny as I had anticipated it would be...honestly, some of the stories of the function of American government are really frightening. Still, if you're interested in the inner workings of Washington DC, this is a decent read.
I am a big fan of Dana Milbank and enjoy his regular column in the Post (imagine Jon Stewart with a little more insider knowledge).

This book is mostly a recounting of the political events of the past 8 years. Seeing them all recounted in one place makes one realize what a weird period it has been--and not just for the administration/GOP, Milbank recounts the Democrats less than stellar (though funny moments). The glossary at the end of the book alone is worth 4 stars sample: "I wil continue to
The creative approach of using an anthropological lens to look at the workings of Washington's government - policy makers, news makers, and hangers-on. The often daft rituals are matched with equally colorful disclosure in this document. Many demographics will have little to no tolerance for this book, but if you have an acquired taste for the processed human-ness (animality) and in-humanity (politics) of operations on the Potomac Beltway, and want insider stories delivered as if over drinks at ...more
I enjoy Dana Millbank's appearances on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and figured this book would be a fun read -- I was right. He basically looks at the culture of Washington from an outsiders perspective -- as if he's a cultural anthropologist and "Potomac Man" is a rare species. Indeed, they are!

Very funny and scary at the same time. It's also very balanced with wackos on both sides of the aisle. Millbank tells the inside stories of Washington, often going well beyond what we typically read a
This was a fun book to read because Milbank's humor is so dry and yet pointed. Telling the stories of the incredible behaviors of our politicians as an anthropological study was great. Both parties receive equal treatment for their outrageous acts, so Milbank can't be accused of partisanship. The ending was disappointing and at times, I lost track of the point he was trying to make. However, it was nice to read this kind of book amidst the modern political books that only serve to frighten and d ...more
Oh wow, I could wax poetic on this book for hours. The whole setup is amazing, with the semi-fake ethnography. It soothes this wannabe, almost anthropologist's heart. The nutty situations described in here are both hilarious and heartbreaking, tending towards the hilarious strictly from a "laugh or cry" perspective. I spent more time going "oh, my God..." and slapping my forehead in shame at our political system than with probably any other book I've read. Truly a great work. One of my best impu ...more
Kind of reminds me of the difference between a SNL skit and a full blown screenplay. Alternately, it's the stuff of high school or college essays. What starts out as a fun premise and structure to puncture the overinflated egos of the Potomac basin just drags on too long and has to be dragged to the finish line.

Milbank is a fun read in the Post, but the format is exhausted by the middle of the 3rd chapter. And this despite my general agreement with all of his observations.
May 15, 2008 Don added it
Some good gossip with Wikipedia style anthropologic research. The conceit is that "Homo Politicus", the environs of Washington politics are similar to various tribespeople around the world and through history. I guess the author didn't have the confidence in his gossip and the anthropology feels like an add-on. In Anthro-101 or whatever it was called when I took it in 1969, we read about the strange tribe called the Nacirema. Oh was America spelled backwards.
Melinda Abney Kaiser
Funny for political junkies like me, probably wouldn't interest those not already intrigued by the idiocies constantly occurring within the Beltway.

Many of these stories I had heard before, but Milbank puts his own sly spin on them to make them even more outrageously ridiculous. Milbank tries to be an equal-opportunity skewer-er, but his left-leaning bias comes through anyway, although that wasn't a problem for left-leaning me.
Bill Dauster
Although occasionally clever or humorous, the book piles the rehashing of one scandal upon another to the point of monotony. Heaven forefend that a casual read might take its faux reporting as an accurate characterization of how our government really works. Cynicism has its place at the table, but not as the main dish at every meal.
Jul 27, 2011 Dee added it
It could've been a bit funnier, but sometimes truth is too weird to be funny. In treating those "inside the Beltway" like a tribe being studied for an anthropology book, Milbank makes these strange people far easier to understand and reminded me that, no matter what they may say or vote for/against, deep down they are all the same.
MilBank knows The this book he gets a little over wrought with social anthropologist humor...trying to show how tribes work and their history.... that gets to be a distraction. But Milbank knows the whose, whats and hows..... ir did... his rep might be sullied more recently.
Maybe i should also but this under haunting - or maybe just sickened. The behavours of the homo politicus is appalling. However, what is worse is that we the people continue to put up with it. We truly need reform at the highest levels rather than laws made for the highest bidders.
Equal parts humorous and depressing.

I wonder: Is politics really a form of prion-infested plague that riddles the minds of otherwise decent human beings and turns them into...well, politicians?

This book was fairly entertaining and full of great stories. My favorite part was the glossery at the end. The what they say translated into what they really mean. "I will continue to work to do the people's business" translated "I am about to be indicted".
An amusing examination of the habits of mind & action of Washington politicians, with all sorts of interesting tidbits, posing as an anthropological investigation of their ways
May 26, 2008 Linda marked it as to-read
Recommended to Linda by: SNS 12-30-07
What elevates "Homo Politicus" above the level of mimicry are Milbank's bone-dry phrasing and keen instinct for the finishing stroke. by Janet Maslin of New York Times
Doug Kabak
Very funny, very informative & more than a bit depressing. I came to it a bit late--he needs to update it. I'm sure the DC hijinks remain the same--if not greater.
I had high hopes, but Milbank tries too hard to be funny, re-hashing old stories that anyone who watches the news already knows.
So Dana Milbank is an affront to objective journalism. So what? This book is kinda funny, in a really gross, icky kind of way.
Supposed to be funny, but really SAD book about how the politicians that we elect to represent us do everything but.
Our country is run by a circus. I always liked the circus. That's probably why I like DC.
Read 10 pages. Stopped. So boring if you know anything at all about politics. What a snoozer.
Truth is stranger than fiction, and the author's wit makes it all the more enjoyable.
Jul 09, 2013 Kathleen added it
Shelves: non-fiction
excellent, entertaining, do these people get away with this?
Funny and cynical. Makes you want to take a shower afterward.
Benjamin Plume
Not nearly as funny as I'd hoped, but it makes one think.
just how corrupt and inept is our congress? it's ALL here!
Matt Ferraguto
Not as strong as Smashmouth.
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Dana Timothy Milbank is an American political reporter and columnist for The Washington Post.
More about Dana Milbank...
Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America Smash Mouth: Two Years In The Gutter With Al Gore And George W. Bush -- Notes From The 2000 Campaign Trail O is for Obama: An Irreverent A-to-Z Guide to Washington and Beltway Politics Homo Politicus: The Strange and Scary Tribes that Run Our Government Homo Politicus: The Strange and Scary Tribes That Run Our Government

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