In Politico parlance, “influence” is less a verb than the root of a noun. Politico’s top editors describe “influentials” (or “compulsives”) as their target audience: elected officials, political operatives, journalists and other political-media functionaries. Since early 2007, Allen’s “data points,” as he calls the items in Playbook, have become the cheat sheet of record for a time-starved city in which the power-and-information hierarchy has been upended. It is also a daily totem for those who deride Washington as a clubby little town where Usual Suspects talk to the same Usual Suspects in a feedback loop of gamesmanship, trivia, conventional wisdom and personality cults.
Allen refers to his readership as “the Playbook community.” He appeared wounded one morning in March when I suggested to him that his esoteric chronicle may reinforce a conceit that Washington is a closed conclave. No, no, he protested. Playbook is open, intimate. No one even edits it before it goes out, he said, which adds to his “human connection” to “the community.” Political insiderdom = or the illusion thereof = has moved from Georgetown salons or cordoned-off security zones to a mass e-mail list administrated by a never-married 45-year-old grind known as Mikey.
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