Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Ari Fleischer Speaks Out

No surprise yesterday that The New York Times featured a piece on former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer's new book, Taking Heat: The President, the Press and My Years in the White House (2005 William Morrow). Fleischer, who was known for his calm controlled responses and ability to stay "on message", a key component for success in the Bush White House, finally is able to talk about his view of the press and their role in governing today.

The Bush White House has long been known for its antagonistic, distrustful relationship with the press. Since his days as Texas governor, Bush has had a general distrust of the press corp. While some may say that this attitude made the press more eager to seek out mistakes, Fleischer offers a wider view of what he feels the media has happened to the media in this country including their loss in objective credibility and increasingly blurred boundaries between commentary and direct reporting. From the article:

He cites a 1999 poll by the Pew Research Center showing that more than two-thirds of the national press corps thought the distinction between reporting and commentary had seriously eroded and suggest that there is "an ideological bias in the media" that reflects the opinions of the Democrats "far more than the Republican's".
What's most remarkable about this article, which is framed as a regular New York Times book review, is how it provides a perfect example of what Fleischer describes. The reporter, almost defensive, feels the need to defend the his (or her) entire profession from Fleischer's attack. Times reporter Michiko Kakutani couldn't just describe Fleischer's coverage of the CBS news fiasco, or point out holes in his account, but has to preemptively defend reporting in general and launch into a commentary on why reporters in general didn't question the administration more heavily about intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq. As a reviewer, the reporter fails to tell me if the book is good or bad, only that they feel Fleischer always had it in for the press.

Maybe Mr. or Ms. Kakutani has a book to write. When it comes out, maybe they should let Ari Fleischer write the book review.


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