What Veep Captured about Washington

The Washington Post has a feature in its Style section called "Hey, Isn't That...?" which reports on celebrity sightings in the District. It isn't a gossip column like you'd find in a paper in New York; it's just brief, breathless accounts of how an actual celebrity was right here in our town. Like, Susan Sarandon was spotted at a restaurant in Georgetown! Pinch me! It shows just how provincial D.C. can be. Which is why people here seem very taken with Veep, the HBO program that premiered last night. As Tom Carson pointed out last week, there are some things the show gets wrong, like the fact that people treat the vice president without much deference. And there are some things it gets right, like the look of offices on Capitol Hill (incredibly cramped, with people having to step over each other to get to their desks; see the picture that accompanies this post). And of course, some characteristics and scenarios are exaggerated in unrealistic ways—that's comedy. But the show's two least likable characters are so spot-on it almost gave me the shivers.

One is Jonah, the White House aide who acts as a liaison with the VP's office. He's forever reminding people where he works ("I have to get back ... to the White House") and how the president sometimes speaks to him in the hall, to remind everyone of how awesome and influential he is, even if the truth is that he's little more than an errand boy. I've met plenty of those people, and you just want to poke them in the eye.

Then there's Dan, the operator who's always looking past the job he's in to see how he can climb over other people to get to a more important job. That particular species is like a permanent D.C. locust colony, covering every available surface and clicking their forelegs together as they say "Who do you work for?" to everyone they meet, which actually means, "Can I use you to advance my career?" They are the most awful people you'll ever encounter, and this town is crawling with them and always will be.

Veep reminds those of us who live here why it's hard not to have mixed feelings about D.C. If you're consumed with politics, you can feel like you're out of the loop and out of the action whenever you're not here. Don't get me wrong—there's a lot to like about this city. I have many friends who love D.C. and plan to stay here for the rest of their lives. But most of them don't work in politics.

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