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The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W. Bush Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 25, 2004
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Cornog notes that the truth is not always relevant to the story. For instance, the Washington-and-the-cherry-tree story is apocryphal. Likewise GW Bush's inflating of Saddam Hussein's pursuit of the weapons of mass destruction. He points out that there's a cycle to the story, that it's sent to the press, which itself behaves as an actor and chorus in interpreting and relaying it to the public, and then as an audience as well, by reacting and allowing the story to return to its source for reinterpretation and re-dissemination.
In some cases, the story becomes part of the president's "next life." Former presidents or even non-presidential statesmen, in publishing their memoirs, have tried to change the focus or the blame on some of the more negative stories about them by attempting to put them in a different context. In some cases the attempt was successful (George Washington and the tree didn't even come out until after he had died, but it's so central to the myth that it was accepted), others not so much (Nixon convincing himself that the decision to invade Cambodia was right by repeatedly watching "Patton", as noted in H. R. Haldeman's memoir).Read more ›
Evan Cornog traces the life of American presidents through various stages of the job. The book is as much about history as how one writes history. The content is as much a lesson on journalism as it is a criticism of the "final word". Cornog does not just select one president through whom to trace the makings of a story. Instead, the author takes each chapter of an informative era in a president's story and places on top of it multiple presidential examples. The approach creates for a much more diverse discussion of the topic; a very fun read.
The makings of the presidential story include the pre-political life, the family life, the big events that create a persona, the campaign trail, the time in office, methods for bowing out and post-office life. Despite the many efforts of presidents to control the story of their life and their motives no one biography or autobiography will ever fully convince. This book is as much about creating the story as it is controlling and shaping the story. It's not about what a president says or stands for as much as what the media decides to publish and how the public chooses to believe it. It is no wonder why campaign strategists hold the power that they do.Read more ›
Cornog's book should serve as a warning to anyone who believes the media are "objective": Cornog is an associate dean for plannig and policy at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and publisher of the Columbian Journalism Review.
My copy of "Power and the Story" is now loaded with slips of paper, each bookmarking a lie or distortion in Cornog's campaign tract. Cornog claims that the old Soviet Union was an American stereotype rooted in habitual ignorance or modern prejudice. Just what does Cornog find admirable about the old Soviet Union? Its gulag system? Its forced exile of minorities? Like others who apparently felt that acceptance of the Soviet Union was the right thing, Cornog casts Ronald Reagan's declaration of the Soviet Union as a message "inadequate to the complexities of the world." Why do people like Cornog come out and specifically say what was good and admirable about the Soviet Union?
In Cornog's view, Lyndon Johnson embodied the Texas Populist Tradition while George W. Bush is rooted in the Conferdate past. The single tenuous reference to support this theory is to yet another overtly partisan screed. This reminds me of Stalin citing Lenin as a persuasive authority.Read more ›