BARBARA FEINMAN, now Barbara Feinman Todd, was just a kid out of college when she took her first baby steps into the world of The Washington Book. She helped Bob Woodward with his research on Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981 – 1987; worked with legendary editor Ben Bradlee on his memoir, A Good Life; helped Carl Bernstein organize his book Loyalties, about being a “red diaper baby.” She also crafted sentences that became paragraphs and then chapters and then entire books for some high-profile politicians who had a message to get out but not the time to do it.
But it was her plum assignment, ghostwriter on Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village, that gave new insight into why our nation’s capital is known as a swamp. Petty as some of the events were, they were hardly petty to a young woman who tried, and generally succeeded at, remaining in the background, who wound up having to hire a lawyer for a fishing expedition by a congressional committee, who watched in bewilderment as her name got tossed around like a political football, signifying something much more than Mr. and Mrs. Feinman’s little girl.
I knew Barbara a little bit at The Washington Post—we were both Mazda Miata gals, hers blue, mine red—and I can hear and feel everything she’s going through in her memoir, Pretend I’m, Not Here: How I Worked With Three Newspaper Icons, One Powerful First Lady, and Still Managed to Dig Myself Out of the Washington Swamp, published last week by William Morrow.
The little girl I knew years ago is still there, somewhat battered, certainly wiser and definitely more realistic about the difference between friendship and Washington friendship.
Now founder of the journalism program at Georgetown University, she will appear tomorrow, Wednesday, February 15, at Kramerbooks, in Dupont Circle at 6:30pm. Her book is not the usual self-glorifying chest-beater; it’s a tender, and honest, reflection of what some of us can do in this town, and what this town can do to us.