The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, June 06, 2004

Clinton White House insider books and the media

I mentioned on May 31 a 1996 article by Walter Goodman in the CJR on the media handling of three books on Clinton - it really is another country back then!

The first, Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House by Gary Aldrich, it calls
a quickie of the sort that dismissed valets have been known to do on their former masters.

The USP of the book was a rumour that
the president is wont to sneak from the White House in the small hours to check out the talent at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington.

Its promotion was assisted by the Wall Street Journal's op-ed pages, and the respectable rags could not resist; though holding their noses, of course, and bowdlerising (or teasing, depending on one's point of view).

Aldrich was exposed by pentito right-wing hack David Brock and, on David Brinkley, by George Will. (Other networks cancelled.) And, of course, the exposure was a fresh news event, demanding continued coverage from mainstream media.

As was widely reported, the networks had been under pressure from the White House to ban Aldrich altogether.

Shocking! Surely Bush was the first Prez to get up to that sort of malarkey?

Goodman comments
We can only hope that the decisions by NBC and CNN to pass on Aldrich were made despite the White House intervention...

The second tome was Bob Woodward's The Choice. The extensive promotion given to their man's book by the Washington Post attracted the condemnation of Michael Getler's predecessor as ombud, the lovely Geneva Overholser.

Woodward's trust me shtick gets criticism (Houston is Jean Houston, Hillary's guru [1]):
Woodward, who does not bother with attributions, much less footnotes that might interrupt his narrative flow or detract from his fly-on-the-White-House-wall persona, has been chided by journalistic sticklers for allowing imagination to play a part in his accounts of meetings he did not attend and conversations he did not hear. Still, relatively serious talk shows, including Jim Lehrer's NewsHour, decided his book was important enough, his opinions valuable enough to warrant an interview. Maybe they were carried away by his celebrity or maybe it was just a demonstration of Beltway palsiness.

It is not hard to figure out from the account of the Jean-Hillary affair that it came mainly from Houston herself, although you can't be sure about every adjective. Woodward writes: "Houston was struck," "Houston believed," "Houston thought," "Houston had found," "Houston recalled," "Houston was amazed." He tells us what Houston felt and wanted and anticipated.

(Goodman thought the guru story legitimate for the media to pick up on.)

The third book is Roger Morris's Partners in Power. The suggestion entertained by Goodman is that the book was shunned by the mainstream media as being unwelcome to the Clintons.

We are of course accustomed to the Bush media machine, to which even a supposedly liberal-leaning paper like the New York Times continues to be in thrall; its origins in the vast right-wing conspiracy of the Clinton years are turned to account by the likes of Brock on Al Franken's radio show and elsewhere. It's a story arc with Hollywood values: upcoming nemesis with prosecutions of Bush operatives for the Valerie Plame leak, perhaps going close to the top...

But Clinton had one. And, if there's a President Kerry, he'll have one, too.

  1. Think Joan Quigley and Nancy Reagan, Carole Caplin and Cherie Blair.

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