Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

There Is Only One Playbook

If you asked me to name my favorite things, high on that list would be Politico Playbook. There is nothing else like it or its author, Mike Allen.

Playbook is almost quaint in its simplicity. It’s a daily email newsletter. That simplicity is part of its charm. It’s a social network without usernames or followers, built by a single person sending one email every morning, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

This single email (which you can read on the site, but why would you?) arrives early every morning. It covers the entirety of national politics — the must-read articles, breaking news, relevant commentary, press releases and events. If something important happened yesterday or is happening today, you will know about it.

All of that would make Playbook worthwhile and noteworthy, but it’s not what makes it special. It’s the tone and spirit in which it is written. The people of politics — advocates, politicians, staff, and the journalists who cover them — are all treated equally and with respect. The reporting is fair, the sources balanced, and the benefit of the doubt given. It’s remarkably close to the world of Sorkin’s The West Wing, a place where public service is noble and the people in it are fundamentally decent and patriotic. It also reminds me of Tim Russert.

In Playbook, the political world becomes a small town. Births and birthdays are celebrated, anniversaries marked, engagements announced (with on-the-scene reporting), and weddings detailed. Tales of children’s athletic accomplishments are told next to the latest polls. It’s like the morning radio commentaries on Northern Exposure.

There’s a healthy sense of perspective that runs through Playbook. We’re all in this together. No one is on top for long. People matter above everything else, so be kind.

Allen is constantly in touch with the most powerful people in the country, but responds to thousands of emails every day. I’ve sent him two and received generous replies both times. He’s simply a class act. (Note: The New York Times ran the definitive profile of Mike Allen in 2010. It’s a fascinating read.)

The fact that Playbook is completely free is incredible. How much would you pay to have an expert tell you everything you need to know about your favorite topic, first thing in the morning, every day of the year? I want five more Playbooks.

If you’re even slightly interested in politics or want to follow the campaign, subscribe and give it a try for a week or two (don’t worry about skipping or skimming parts that aren’t of interest). You’ll learn a lot about politics. You’ll be introduced to ideas and people you wouldn’t come across otherwise. You’ll marvel at the writing, reporting, and spirit of it all. Eventually you’ll be drinking your morning coffee from your Playbook mug (seriously, how are there not Playbook mugs?), wondering how you started your day without it.

And you might find yourself feeling a little bit better about our country and the people who lead it.