What: The Hill’s Political Book Fair, an annual event highlighting the latest in Washington’s political nonfiction.
Where: Main level of the Trover Shop (221 Pennsylvania Ave., SE).
When: October 17, 5:30 to 7 PM.
Who: The Hill newspaper packed the small book shop with 12 Washington authors who signed, spun, and sold their books for nearly two hours. Among them were five politicians past and present: Representatives Charles B. Rangel, David Obey, Jay Inslee, and Steve Israel and former House majority leader Tom DeLay. Other authors included Terry McAuliffe, Christopher Hitchens, political strategist Bay Buchanan, and the American Enterprise Institute’s John Fortier. The fair drew interested readers, but most in attendance were Capitol Hill staffers—including the right-hand men and women of the Congress members—and media types.
Food: Officially, none. However, the Trover Shop handed out coupons for free beer and wine at the Hawk ’n’ Dove down the street and kept its candy selection well stocked for patrons needing a sugary pick-me-up.
Scene: Whether intentional or not, the event was rife with contradiction. Though it drew a largely Democratic crowd, the centerpiece—both literally and figuratively—was the signing table where Hitchens and DeLay sat. On the left, atheist Hitchens showed off his latest book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. On the right, conservative Baptist DeLay—who, following the Columbine massacre, famously entered a statement into the Congressional Record that blamed the shooting in part on the school’s teaching of evolution—hawked his memoir/political directive, No Retreat, No Surrender: One American’s Fight. Most observers seemed to agree that the seating arrangement was hardly accidental.
At the remaining tables, pushed against the side and back walls, were the rest of the politicos—one Republican and nine Democrats—who chatted candidly with the media-heavy crowd. In addition to their books, the hot topics of the evening included the environment and the 2008 presidential election. Staffers and assistants hovered close by, reeling in journalists to help promote their bosses’ books.
Awkward moment: For about 20 minutes in the middle of the event, the congressmen raced to the House floor to vote on a railroad-safety bill. Book-fair patrons mingled awkwardly with one another, with new arrivals asking if the politicians had left for good. When the congressmen returned, lines formed quickly at their tables. Asked about the bill he’d just voted on, Jay Inslee paused before replying, “I can’t remember what it was for, but it was a good bill. Good bill.”
Boldface names: 3.5 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 1 (out of 5)
Food and drink: 1 (out of 5)
Exclusivity: 0 (out of 5)
Total score: 5.5 (out of 20)Want to see more photos from Washington events and parties? Click here for Washingtonian.com's photo slideshow page.