Where do you want to fly?
A scene from the new season of “Veep,” which debuts Sunday on HBO. Photograph by Colleen Hayes/HBO.
Finally, a memoir from America’s first female president. Veep‘s Selina Meyer—the irreverent and crass world leader played with charm by Julia-Louis Dreyfus—has published the story of her fabled and foibled career that’s led her through the power corridors of the White House and the dusty corridors of the Congressional basement. While her character may be fake, the book Selina Meyer, A Woman First: First Woman is very real and full of nuggets about life as many of us know it inside the Beltway. As a matter of fact, the book sleeve notes that Selina was “born and raised deep in the American heartland of God-fearing suburban Maryland.” Authored by executive producers Bill Kimball and David Mandel, A Woman First: First Woman is packed with satire.
Washingtonian got our hands on the book at a party for Veep‘s seventh season, which begins Sunday on HBO. Here are some of the best bits:
On Maryland: “For those of you who have never had the pleasure of visiting Eastern Maryland, Centreville is an all-American as apple pie on the Fourth of July. Our neighborhood was a true melting pot of religions (everything from Methodist to Episcopalian), races (it seemed like half the diplomatic corps lived within half a mile), and political beliefs, be they Democrat or Republican. We had bankers, we had doctors, we had businessmen, we had small businessmen, we had people who took care of horses—pretty much every profession under the sun.”
On Congress: “Look, here’s another reason why Congressmen are such losers: There’s no real money in it. A member of the House of Representatives makes $174,000 a year, which may be a lot to some of these people, but to you and me it’s nothing more than chump change. Of course, the real reward is having the honor to serve. But if America wanted to attract a higher class of person, who dresses more fashionably, to public service, it might consider making the pay a little better.
Let’s take a look at some of the perks. Is there free parking? I can’t remember. … Can you get on a plane before everyone else? You can, but ordinary people who are waiting in line will sometimes get mad at you and then turn out to be reporters for The Hill. Is there a gym? Yes, but after visiting it once and having nowhere to look but at sweaty, gross Congressmen, I never went back.
When one looks past the shabby, smelly members of Congress shuffling about in their sad, forlorn way and opens one’s eyes to the splendors of the Capitol building and the District of Columbia generally it is sometimes possible to forget the moral squalor that attends governing at the junior varsity benchwarmer level in the House. The Capitol itself is a magnificent building despite its stupid spelling. I don’t deny that parts of it can be a bit tacky (but never tackier than the people inside it), and there are cynical crowd-pleasing ‘politically correct’ recent additions of statues and paintings and plaques honoring Native Americans and women and what-have-you. That kind of thing can’t be helped, and you just have to smile and grin and walk quickly whenever you see the signs that workmen are about to unveil yet another statue of a Hawaiian princess or some g-ddamn thing.
Listen, I am all for immigration and for Americans having babies, but what it has done to the House chamber is a total disgrace. On the rare occasion there was a rare occasion that all the Congressmen had to attend, such as the State of the Union Address or some kind of ceremonial event, we were crammed in like sardines, and the breath problem, in particular, became extremely acute.
People would often say to me, ‘Wow! You have to be really smart to be a senator!’ and I guess it’s easy to see why lots of stupid people believe this. Senators often look smart, and on television, though almost never in person, they can sometimes even sound smart. But are they smart? Most of the time, no. The thing about being a senator as opposed to a mere congressman is that you get a much larger staff budget, meaning you can hire a bunch of smart people (often for next to nothing) and get them to do the work for you and even take most of the tedious meetings with lobbyists and constituents, leaving you plenty of time to drink and play practical jokes on one another. … One of the best perks is the small hideaway office in the Capitol that each senator gets, which eliminates the need to travel on the Capitol’s adorable but breakdown-prone special subway. As the name suggests, it also serves as a ‘hideaway’ from others, and by immemorial custom, a senator is never disturbed in his or her hide-away except in the case of a vote or a bomb threat. I readily adapted to the daily routine while the Senate was in session of napping in my hideaway when not voting or being evacuated.
On Media: “I have nothing but the utmost respect for the fourth estate. I firmly believe that a free press is essential to a good government, and, indeed, to a properly functioning democracy. This is not to say that I have always felt fairly treated by the media. But I have also always tried to look at the matter of press coverage from the press’ point of view. It must be an abject misery to have to come up with something new to write every day about a situation that mostly stays the same. I mean, can you just imagine how boring it would be to be a reporter or journalist and try to arrange the same two dozen words into different stories day after day, week after week? This is why I think the best people don’t go into journalism but become, instead, movie critics, which enables them to watch a lot of movies for free or, at least, to expense them.
In this case, though, the political press—prematurely exhausted by yet another primary season of dishwater-dull white men scrambling over one another in an unseemly fashion to try and distance themselves from Washington and run, during the primary, as outside-the-Beltway mavericks—turned to me as a welcome breath of fresh air, or, at the very least, something new to write about.
The preponderance, yet again, of white male candidates had inspired The Hill, one of Washington’s confusingly unprofitable news outlets, to come up with a list of ‘outside the box’ candidates for the presidency consisting almost entirely of women and minorities and a few people who I guess were gay and maybe not terribly happy about being singled out for being gay in this particular way. To a man—and woman and whatever—they all declared in the mini interview that accompanied their listing in the article that they did not intend to run for president—at least, not in the near future. Ha ha, wink emoji. That is, I guess, what you are supposed to do if you actually do intend to run for president someday in the future but are trying to dog-whistle everyone about what a smart and shrewd politician you are while also appearing to be modest and devoted to doing whatever job you have at present with utmost dedication.
On the White House: “Okay, what’s the White House like? It’s a dump! In its defense, its as built a long time ago—more than a hundred years ago—when I suppose standards were different. We all know that great story about President Taft and the bathtub. But while standards of luxury, as well as standards of living generally, may have improved very considerably since the White House was built and considered ‘luxurious,’ the people ‘in charge’ of the White House, whoever they may be, seem to have made little effort to keep pace. The best you can say about it is that it looks sort of like someone’s grandma’s house, which is pleasant enough if you like your grandma, which I didn’t particularly. To give you some idea, the White House is not remotely comparable to a Four Seasons in a big city like New York or Chicago or a foreign capital. Recently, though, I’ve noticed that the Four Seasons people have become very promiscuous in their relationships and have opened hotels in lots of second- and third-tier cities, like St. Louis and Houston. That’s sort of what the White House is like. Like a franchised Four Seasons hotel in an American city with a population of less than two million people.
Is it true that the White House has a swimming pool and a bowling alley? Yes. Yes, it has both. In fact, it has two pools, an indoor one and an outdoor one. The thing is: I’m not really a swimmer or a bowler, so neither the pools nor the bowling alley were of much use to me. And even if I were a swimmer, I don’t think I’d really enjoy using the pool. You see, the indoor pool was a favorite trysting spot for JFK, and even after all these years I think it would be hard for me to escape the sensation that some of his sperm was still alive and swimming around in the pool with me, or, even worse, trying to crawl up inside me. Maybe it would be just one or two of them but if anyone’s sperm survive fifty years in a chlorinated pool, it was JFK’s.”