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Homo Politicus: The Strange and Barbaric Tribes of the Beltway

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  151 Ratings  ·  35 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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Sep 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
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.
Feb 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
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.
Some books are timeless. Others have an unforeseen event occur that makes them unpalateable. And still others have sell-by dates pretty close to when they were published, simply by virtue of their nature. This one was definitely a case of the last of those options. I got this one a while ago, and I really should have read it then, but it got pushed back really far in my queue. As a result, it is now totally out-of-date. That's not to say it's poorly written. Milbank's reasonably funny, and I got ...more
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
Karran Mehta
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Homo Politicus is a non-fiction novel about the Washington D.C culture and the satire of D.C politics. The book looks at many political figures such as George W Bush, Dick Cheney, and Howard Dean, and makes satire out of them. The book also goes over the bizarre culture and themes between recurring events.

Homo Politicus could have been improved by instead focusing allot on satire it could have gone over certain themes more clearly instead of focusing too much on satire.

What I really loved about
Mark Valentine
Mar 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Here's a contemporary roast on every politician in the Beltway.

The controlling trope is that the machinations of politicians fit into an anthropological community resembling a tribal society. For all the sophistication of Washington, D. C., politicians, they all have corrupt, arrogant, hypocritical, vain, misguided, selfish, blinded, irrational, hopeless, pathetic, small, and wasted lives. They are to be the most pitied.

Milbank picks on both sides of the aisle, although for the last 30 years it
Feb 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 04, 2009 rated it liked it
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
May 15, 2008 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.
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
Bill Dauster
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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 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.
Sep 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
May 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
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".
May 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
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
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
just how corrupt and inept is our congress? it's ALL here!
Jun 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Funny and cynical. Makes you want to take a shower afterward.
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?

Kristy Olin
Dec 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting take on politics and the strangeness they engender.
Matt Ferraguto
Not as strong as Smashmouth.
Jul 09, 2013 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
excellent, entertaining, do these people get away with this?
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Our country is run by a circus. I always liked the circus. That's probably why I like DC.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read 10 pages. Stopped. So boring if you know anything at all about politics. What a snoozer.
Mar 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Supposed to be funny, but really SAD book about how the politicians that we elect to represent us do everything but.
May 26, 2008 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
Benjamin Plume
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Not nearly as funny as I'd hoped, but it makes one think.
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Dana Timothy Milbank is an American political reporter and columnist for The Washington Post.
More about Dana Milbank...