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Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House Hardcover – March 1, 2005

3.2 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A former White House press secretary, Fleischer became a lightning rod for accusations about the Bush administration's alleged spin, secrecy and hostility to the press, claims that may not be quieted by this sunnily defensive memoir. Fleischer acknowledges the White House's fanatical "message discipline," which still seems in force in his glowing portrait of Bush as a decisive leader, stalwart in advancing freedom and opposing "evil," forever comforting the families of terror victims and military casualties. And he cops to some stonewalling at press briefings, explaining, with some justice, that many questions concerned security and military operations he couldn't discuss. The many lengthy fencing matches he reprints sometimes evoke sympathy, as reporters badger him with provocative questions and he responds "with the same non-answer every time." Mainly, though, he blames his testy relations with the media on the media themselves and what he sees as their knee-jerk controversializing and pervasive liberal bias, and gleefully cites examples. Fleischer is less forthcoming on his own responsibility for relating false claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; "we may all have been wrong," he shrugs, but contends it doesn't matter because Saddam might have gotten WMDs someday. Seldom have a press secretary's inaccuracies had such momentous consequences, so Fleischer's reluctance to examine how and why they occurred is disappointing indeed. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Former White House press secretary Fleischer offers a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most high profile positions in any administration and observations on bias in the media. Born into a Jewish liberal Democratic family in New York, he traces his personal journey to the Republican Party and the campaign and early administration of President Bush. He details private moments from the contentious 2000 presidential election when Bush declined to worry about the outcome to Bush's expressed desire for peace in the Middle East even as he fights against terrorism. Fleischer also offers quotes and anecdotes on the president's thoughts and actions on the war in Iraq and domestic policies. Fleischer criticizes a press he sees as biased in favor of the Democrats, noting differences in press treatment of positions from affirmative action to abortion. But the first and foremost bias of the press is in favor of conflict, Fleischer maintains, in this revealing look at how the news is made and covered from the perspective of the White House. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060747625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060747626
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lehigh History Student VINE VOICE on February 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ari provides an interesting book in his autobiography as President Bush's White House Press Secretary. I always hate to review books like this because they are so politically charged and ideologues on either side tend to get in a huff over what you say. I will endeavor to keep this as neutral as possible. This book sets out to accomplish many objectives but only hits half of them. First and foremost it is one of the best looks at the role of the press secretary and the sheer stress the job has on a person. Whether you like or hate President Bush there is no one who can deny that the role of press secretary is a hard job especially under a tight lipped and secretive white House. Andy Card's goal as chief of staff was to keep leaks to a minimum which frustrates the press leaving their only source of information the press secretary. When the press secretary is instructed not to discuss military matters it becomes even more adversarial. One of the interesting things learned from the book is what viewpoint the Press Secretary is supposed to have. I found it fascinating that he is only there to represent the views of the president and that does not necessarily have to be the wishes of the branches of government that report to the president.

One of the other objectives was to provide a critical narrative of the press and give insight into the White House Press Crops. I found his look at the White House Press fascinating and he really does put you inside the room of the toughest reporters in the United States. He illustrates well his points about the adversarial nature of the press and the desire of the press to create conflict which leads to stories. Many times the same questions are asked over and over hoping for a slip that the Press Secretary cannot afford to give.
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Format: Hardcover
The whiny left will cry foul and hope that the "unenlightened" middle America continues to stick their heads in the sand, and the stodgy right will brandish this book like a blade of righteous indignation. As a staunch independent, the insight into the left-biased media is vindicating for someone like myself who always has that nagging feeling that you're not quite getting both sides of the story. The writing itself was difficult to pick out a linear theme, more of a textbook to be studied than an autobiography to be leisurely enjoyed. The subject matter however is fascinating, giving you a fly-on-the-wall perspective into the most powerful office on earth.
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Format: Hardcover
I having nothing but praise for Ari Fleishcher's work as President Bush's press secretary. But unfortunately, his decision to treat his book like just another press conference makes for a very disappointing, unsatisfying read. What struck me the most was his failure to offer anything even remotely critical of the President. His hero worship/adherance to the party line as press secretary makes perfect sense, but as an independent minded author, one is forced to question how in his years with the President, he failed to see a single thing that had been handled incorrectly. Is this the immaculate Presidency? Could anyone be that perfect? As a supporter of President Bush, I was hoping to discern a more complete picture of his leadership skills and character. But all you get here is a campaign ad. He even spins the now infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner, using it as an opportunity to slam the press for failing to report the full breadth of the President's remarks. I supported the war, but c'mon Ari, this was a screw up of monumental proportions in terms of public perception. An honest statement like "we were right on the substance, but we made a big mistake in terms of giving our detractors ammunition" would have been welcome and refreshing. Instead, like with most campaign commercials, after a while, you just stop listening and want to change the channel.
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Format: Hardcover
Ari Fleischer should take a bow for having to deal with both sides...the White House and the media. It's a thankless job and you are always in hot water. I thought this was a good book. Not a great book. There were no major revelations and he slammed the media for being too liberal but overall, it was a book that is worth reading. It was interesting to read his first hand account of Sept. 11th and the lead up to both wars. Of course, he defends the reasoning behind most events but it was still interesting to hear why he believed that way. He talks about how he may know something but can't tell. However, what I found most fascinating is how much he didn't know because the Bush White House was afraid he would tell the press or they didn't want his views. Overall, it's worth buying the bargain book price book.
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Format: Hardcover
Helen Thomas: 'Fleischer forgets he gave spin, not facts'

Posted on Wednesday, April 06 @ 09:42:19 EDT Former Press Secretary Has Advice For Journalists

By Helen Thomas, The Boston Channel

Unlike some former White House aides, Ari Fleischer -- who served as President George W. Bush's press secretary during Bush's first term -- has not written a "kiss and tell" book.

In fact, Fleischer's White House memoir, "Taking Heat," is so worshipful of the president, Bush could have written it himself.

Fleischer says he left the White House because of burnout, a fatigue brought on mainly by sparring with the press -- that is the "biased," conflict-loving, predominantly liberal cadre of White House reporters.

Another perennial complaint in his book is that reporters focused only on the bad news and did not cover the good news "even in a land as hopeful and optimistic as America."

More in sorrow than in anger he ends his opus with an epilogue, expressing the hope that his book will challenge reporters and journalism schools "to think a little bit differently about how they report the facts."

If only he had provided the facts instead of the daily spin. But that's another story.

Fleischer did not completely spare himself and recounted some of his flubs. Reporters remember when he warned them that people "in this building" -- presumably Mrs. and Mrs. Bush -- were taking note of what they said.

His biggest boo-boo was in responding to critical remarks by "Politically Correct" host Bill Maher. Fleischer reminded Americans "that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do.
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