Retiring Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming is an opinionated and cagey fellow gifted with a folksy sense of humor. He leaves the Senate with a respected record, distinguished by his farsighted work for social security reform. But Simpson can't leave without a few parting jabs at the press, and his book Right in the Old Gazoo
is both a reflection upon the role the press has played in Simpson's political life and a thoughtful outline of how the media could better serve the democratic process. In the beginning of his Senate career, Simpson curried favor with the press corps, chumming up with the media at swank soirees and earning favorable coverage for his down-to-earth character. But later, particularly during the Gulf War and the debates over the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas, Simpson was vociferous in his condemnation of the press, and the press returned fire with unfavorable profiles that turned Simpson's homespun image into that of a cantankerous and stooped crank. With his natural wit and his recently acquired perspective, Simpson distills the lessons he has learned into this intelligent memoir, which may serve as more than just another poke in the eye of the press if it fosters a saner relationship between those in public life and the media that covers them.
From Publishers Weekly
The tart-tongued Sen. Simpson (R-Wyo.) retires this year after three terms, so this readable mix of memoir and criticism serves as his valedictory. "[T]he media need to rein themselves in," declares this participant in and observer of numerous media controversies. Indeed, Simpson knows that the news business isn't pretty. During his early days in Wyoming, he saw underprepared reporters focus on controversy, not substance. In Washington, the situation has worsened, he says, contending that the media too often dig dirt instead of analyzing national problems. He has had a Washington Post reporter misquote him and refuse to apologize when confronted with a tape. These experiences lead Simpson to propose useful reforms?the press should admit errors, focus on substance, resist off-the-record sources?that recall more thorough journalistic critiques by James Fallows and Howard Kurtz. More controversially, Simpson declares that the landmark 1964 libel case New York Times v. Sullivan "turned public officials into raw meat," and argues that it should be undone. While that proposal is worth debating, other Simpson segments sound merely partisan. He criticizes CNN correspondent Peter Arnett for broadcasting Iraqi propaganda during the Gulf war but declares that the rules for American reporters were reasonable. And he maintains that his statements during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings?"I really am getting stuff over the transom"?were no worse than the media attacks on Thomas. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.