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All the President's Spin: George W. Bush, the Media, and the Truth Paperback – August 3, 2004
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It's no shock that an American president would employ skilled PR pros to carefully hone a message that makes the administration's objectives more palatable to the general public. It's a tradition that dates back decades. But it's another matter entirely to base an entire presidency on the bending, twisting, and distorting of the truth. According to authors Ben Fritz, Bryan Keefer, and Brendan Nyhan, the George W. Bush administration tiptoes around the definition of lying but still uses ambiguous language, selective use of facts, and shaky evidence to sell the American people on issues like the effect of tax cuts, the impact of a business-friendly environmental policy, and the reasons for going to war in Iraq. While the authors have plenty of blame to place on the administration, the news media are also fingered for parroting administration spin and reporting it, without verification or context, as objective fact. Fritz, Keefer, and Nyhan, founders of the political analysis web site Spinsanity, detail how Bush and company, more than any administration in history, cherry pick information that they find helpful, regardless of how representative it is of the overall truth, and then package it with a forceful and persistent presentation that eventually takes on the patina of reality. Democrats will also find that 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry appears very much up to playing the political game on Bush's terms as the authors dissect and deflate plenty of misleading primary season anti-Bush charges made by the Democratic nominee. All The President's Spin is richly detailed, not surprising given the sound bite-free task of picking apart political spin, and while it is intensely critical of Bush's messaging, it does not pass judgment on the wisdom or efficacies of the policies themselves. Any politician could take a lesson from the authors' clarity and comprehensive scope. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
George W. Bush vowed to restore "honor and integrity" to the White House during his 2000 presidential campaign, but instead he has launched an "assault on honesty," argue the authors, who founded the watchdog Web site Spinsanity.com after concluding during the 2000 election that the "national debate had been reduced to an endless barrage of spin." In this lucid critique of Bushs "permanent campaign of policy disinformation," the authors evenhandedly point out instances when other politicians, including Kerry, Clinton and Reagan, have distorted the truth to their advantage, but they contend that Bush is the "current leader of the arms race of deception." Bushs weapons: "emotional language designed to provoke gut-level reactions, slanted statistics that are difficult for casual listeners to interpret, and ambiguous statements that imply what Bush does not want to state outright." The authors support their claims with many solid examples. For instance, when commenting on the method that Bush used to imply a connection between Saddam and September 11, they point to a televised address that aired prior to the war in which Bush linked Iraq, al Qaeda and September 11 without saying directly that Iraq was responsible for the attack. The book isnt just a critique of Bushs spin tactics, however. The authors also reproach the media for letting statements like this go unchecked and for being so overly concerned about objectivity that theyve become a mere outlet for politicians "talking points." Well organized and heavily referenced, this passionate indictment will pique readers awareness of political spin and of the outletsbloggers, publications like the Economist and "infotainment" programs like Comedy Centrals The Daily Showthat are purportedly fighting it.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
So, about the book. I'll tell you straight up: It's boring. Without much insight, the book walks through the different scandals of the presidency and describes how facts are altered as a means for saving face and never admitting fault or defeat. Starting with the tainted election and working to a point I can't stay awake to read about, they're all there.
What's missing? Analysis and insight. This book is a fact checker's delight. The sources are verified and the twists on said sources are identified. I expected that in this book, but I also craved commentary and insight that was just absent. I'll give the authors their due respect for uncovering subject matter that was intentionally shrouded, but their impartial nature turns eloquence to evidence, and really detracts from what could have been a vindictive, poignant read for an election year.
One part that earned these authors my stingy stars was their steadily pointed finger at a lazy lazy press corps. It's clearly an issue with dedication of resources, but the press really doesn't do anything to dig into the statements that politicians make unless someone outside of the press goes to them with proof of intentional deceit. In the book, this is noted everywhere it's appropriate, and I'm scared to say that the problem is likely far worse than the book could express.
Regardless, this book is not the flashy scandalous read I hoped it would be. It's an awesome reference, however, and will likely be used to source data for volumes upon volumes of (hopefully) more compelling future efforts.
If you are hesitant to buy this book because you think its is just another Anti-Bush rant, don't be. The president does come off as disingenuous, manipulative, and outright dishonest, but not a liar. You can only fault him so much for trying to put the best face he can on things, even if his methods are secretive and heavy-handed. The real villain is the press, which has given up uncovering truth in favor of just passing along whatever its told. If the political debate in this country seems to be Anne Coulter and Michael Moore screaming at each other while average citizens (me!) just wander around wondering what to believe, this book is for you.
You need to evaluate for yourself prior to reading this book, what is the medias role in a democracy. and is that reality. The authors seems to long for a bygone era of investigative reporting that is not focused on scandal. They alternatively relate stats that show the current media organizations cannot and will not do this sort of work, and are soley focused on scandal and ratings, but then in the next paragraph will blame media stratgy from the whitehouse for neutering such work.
This fundamental chicken/egg problem is never resolved in the book to my satifaction. is the media broken, and this is the logical response from elected officials? or is as the authors seem to believe, this is a democracy destroying effort launched from the whitehouse, designed to disenfranchise the american people?
It seems there is plenty of blame to go around, but the "talking points" the authors use do not seem to fully recognize that.
I still recommend it as a must read before this November's elections.