“Dear Jim: Thanks for the great job you do pushing the mail cart around the office. You truly are a special person!”
[Charlie Savage signs a copy of his book for Aaron Zitner, politics editor for the Los Angeles Times.]
Earlier this week, we attended a delightful book party for Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy, by Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe. Savage won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, based on his work on presidential signing statements.
Photos and discussion of the star-studded event — after you win a Pulitzer, everyone is your friend! — after the jump.
“I’m a member of the United States Congress. Would I lie to you?”
“Please shut up. I’m trying very hard to imagine Angelina Jolie in a bikini.”
[Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) talks to Boston Globe D.C. bureau chief Peter Canellos, as Markey's chief of staff, Jeff Duncan, looks on.]
Here’s our write-up of the festivities:
Venue rating: Fair. It wasn’t particularly glamorous; the party was held in the offices of the Boston Globe, on Connecticut Avenue. But as news groupies, we always find it interesting to be in a real live newsroom.
The Globe’s D.C. bureau isn’t enormous, so their digs aren’t particularly grand. They’re certainly not as glamorous as the New York Times’s cavernous and fancy newsroom in their new Renzo Piano-designed tower, which we visited last month. But the Globe offices are comfortable, intimate, and probably nice to work in.
Starpower rating: Very good. When Sen. Ted Kennedy showed up, we were blocking his path to Charlie Savage — so we scurried out of his way, so he could have his book signed by the author. Not surprisingly, Senator Kennedy looks exactly like he does on TV. As he lumbered up the long hallway leading into the main room, everyone was like, “Hey, it’s Ted Kennedy!” He’s a stout guy, but just like every celebrity, he’s shorter in person.
As Supreme Court press corps groupies, we were in heaven. At one point, we were engaged in a conversation with celebrity law prof Neal Katyal, of Hamdan fame, and Tony Mauro, of the Legal Times and the American Lawyer. Then ABC News’s fabulous Jan Crawford Greenburg arrived. Air kisses all around! She joined the conversation circle.
A guest was departing, and we were partially blocking the long hallway by which you exit, so we had to scoot off to the side. And who was the departing guest? None other than the New York Times’s Linda Greenhouse — the archnemesis (at least in our fevered imagination) of Jan Crawford Greenburg. Was it coincidence that Linda was leaving just as Jan was arriving?
We were hoping for on-the-spot pulling of hair and clawing out of eyes. Sadly, LG merely issued cordial good-byes. She was on her way to the party for Stuart Taylor’s new book on the Duke lacrosse team rape case (a party to which, alas, we were not invited).
Other notable journalists in attendance, but not on the SCOTUS beat, included the Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin — FROOMKIN! — and freelance investigative journalist Murray Waas.
Several of Charlie Savage’s current and former colleagues, including Boston Globe D.C. bureau chief Peter Canellos, were of course on hand. And so was Savage’s stunning wife, fellow journalist Luiza Ch. Savage, the Washington correspondent for Maclean’s — who had trotted out her pointy-heels for the occasion.
(But she had to leave the festivities early to attend to their young son. No word yet on whether she wants a front-loading washing machine.)
Food rating: Good. Appealing but standard fare: shrimp cocktail, chicken satay, and this delicious pink fizzy punch. We asked about what it was made of and were told the recipe is a secret.
(By the way, Murray Waas was loving himself some chicken satay. Freelancers are always hungry!)
Swag rating: No swag; everyone had to shell out the dough for Charlie’s book. One other party guest leaned over and asked us, sotto voce, “Am I a total d****ebag if I don’t buy a copy of the book?”
But we were happy to do so (and not just ’cause we can expense it). It sounds like Savage’s book is full of juicy gossip about various legal celebrities. Here’s a brief description:
The book goes far beyond Savage’s reporting on signing statements to tell the full story of this administration’s expansion of executive power. It investigates key figures, including David Addington and John Yoo, and analyzes the theories they developed to justify dramatically expanded presidential authority. It also puts the Bush administration’s expansion of executive power into historical perspective, from the Truman to the Clinton administrations. It uncovers memos about presidential power Vice President Cheney wrote during the Ford administration and shows how President Bush’s Supreme Court picks, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, were each vigorously looking for ways to expand executive power during the Reagan administration. The list goes on.
Written in a narrative style, the book has received some flattering advance praise from across the political spectrum, including endorsements from conservatives such as George Will and Richard Epstein as well as administration critics such as John Dean and Larry Tribe. In the book’s first full-length review this past weekend, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote “A masterful work of investigative journalism, Savage’s book deserves to be remembered as one of the key texts of the Bush years.”
At right: Charlie Savage (and his book) pose with Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times.
As some of you may recall, Wallsten — who is legally blind — was (mortifyingly) ribbed by President Bush for wearing sunglasses on a not-very-sunny day. A YouTube clip of their exchange is available here.
Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy [Amazon]