Capitol crackpots: Who gets zapped in Christopher Buckley's D.C. satire

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“Little Green Men,” Christopher Buckleys satirical D.C. roman ` clef, takes aim at crackpots in the nation’s capital. It takes a few below-the-Beltway swipes as well.

The novel follows a George Will-like talking head named John Oliver Banion, who is kidnapped from his golf course by aliens and must then convince a host of Washingtonians of the UFO threat. Among them is the pseudo-defense expert Karl Cuntmore, a “hugely successful writer of technological-thriller novels.” That could be a tag for anyone from Michael Crichton to William Gibson, but this particular writer considers himself a military man about town. “Oh, don’t play soldier with me,” Banion warns him. “The only uniform you ever wore was a Cub Scout outfit, with a merit badge for pulling the legs off insects.” Could this be “The Hunt for Red October” author Tom Clancy?

Another of Buckley’s thinly disguised victims is Clinton aide Vernon Jordan, who in the novel becomes Banion’s love-hungry African-American friend Burton Galilee, a “lawyer, lobbyist, friend of presidents who had turned down a Supreme Court appointment rather than give up, as he has actually put it to Banion, a confidant, ‘God’s greatest gift to mankind — pussy.’”

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Ninety-two-year-old Sen. Raysor Mentallius of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Hindsight Committee, is a “keen appreciator of feminine beauty, a trait he expressed by groping every woman that he met. In the old days, this was of course standard practice among senators. In the era of political correctness it was not, but he managed to persist in his tactile enthusiasms by pretending to be functionally blind.” There aren’t a lot of 92-year-old committee heads left in the Senate — besides South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond.

Only a few notables escape Buckley’s nonpartisan blade. These lucky figures include Tom Brokaw, Jeffrey Toobin and serial groom Larry King, who are all identified by their own names. Apparently the press is mightier than the sword.

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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