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Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House Hardcover – March 1, 2005
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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.
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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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. One of the angles that I think he does handle poorly is the bias of the press. While there are voluminous studies to show that the press is slanted right Ari seems to not acknowledge that all media is biased in one direction or another. The White House press does not give passes to any president. People today do not trust the news they get from the press and rightly so due to the biases that are present be they Fox News or MSNBC. While he highlights the point of on the liberal media it is done far better by Benard Goldberg in his book Bias.
Finally Ari tries to make a defense of President Bush and his policies/leadership style. Some of his book seems to be aimed at knocking down the arguments in the Price of Loyalty. While this is another viewpoint again the truth probably lies in the middle. Some of his defenses of trying to shift blame to the press for starting up the Iraq war are fairly ludicrous. Ari does not sit in on any of the national security briefings and the president preferred himself to comment on those matters leaving Ari in a hard position to comment on them after the fact. One of the things he does refute well that many agree with is the loyalty that Bush shows to those who are loyal to him. There is a clear look that Bush's leadership style does work within his White House and he is respected by the staff. Ari also seems to take it upon himself to set the record straight and show the country that Bush did not think of the war in Iraq in a vacuum that many other people including the press also had the same idea along the way. He is largely successful in this although he glosses over one of the critical mistakes. The landing on the USS Lincoln with the banner Mission Accomplished was one of the great errors in the press of fighting the war and it is skipped over here. I think Ari is right in saying that the press views any war that is long as a quagmire and Vietnam and any war where we win quickly is Desert Storm and must be over in a week. There is a lack of reality by the press which filters to the country.
Overall an excellent book and very well done. Ari provides unique insight into the Bush White House and while it is biased it does not make it useless. He raises critical questions that require issues to be reexamined and while he is loathe to critize his former boss for the things he did wrong we still see a good look at Bush the man and the President.
It is almost painful to listen to a press briefing on cable television. How can the press secretary who is not a cabinet member, who is privy only to information the administration wants him/her to hear, possibly convey the exact meaning to the sometimes ridiculous questions as to what the President knows or thinks - really. All they can do is try not to give their own opinions and start a firestorm.
I enjoyed this book because Ari Fleischer comes across as sincere. He describes his trips all over the world, meetings with foreign leaders, the aftermath of 9/11, events leading up to the Iraq war, engaging with the press until he simply "burned out" and had to resign. No wonder, a press secretary is on call 24/7 as news is being made all the time.
The author has no axe to grind, no grand desire to diminish George Bush, and states he took a lot of heat and hopes he has shed some light. He feels the press can be too conflict-oriented most of the time, and I agree. Here is one press secretary who did his best during a tumultuous time in American history to interpret the news from the White House to the American people in a calm manner. A thankless task indeed. Forget party labels, just enjoy this book.
He went from being a person that respected the political process to being thrust into a world that had to convey the President's message to a press that was not always interested in what exactly that message was. I learned alot about Ari the man, from his relationship with his democratic parents and fondness of President Bush. He went into the White House with the goal of contributing something during his time there, and I think he accomplished that goal, though maybe with more challenges than he could have expected.
Whether it was dealing with addressing the press and the world after the controversial and heated election results or the tragedy that befell the nation on September 11, 2001, Fleischer took his role seriously.
Anyone looking to enter public life should read this book. Again, you might not agree with the politics, but you will be hard pressed to not appreciate the complexities and heart needed to be effective.
Definitely two thumbs up on this one. Highly recommended.