'N.Y. Times' Torches New Ari Fleischer Book

By: E&P Staff Wasting no time in dismissing a book published just today, The New York Times on Tuesday reviewed ?Taking Heat,? the memoir by former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. Veteran Times critic Michiko Kakutani called it ?tedious and tendentious? and a ?sorry volume,? and that was just for starters.

Of course, Fleischer has a few unkind things to say about her newspaper in the book, as well.

Noting that the book takes many potshots at the press -- including her own paper -- Kakutani declared that ?it reads like the very embodiment of the administration's disciplined, corporate-style message control.?

Describing the book in today's Washington Post, media critic Howard Kurtz wrote that Fleischer believes White House correspondents "are mostly liberal. Mostly negative. Mostly opposed to tax cuts. Mostly unwilling to give his president a break. Mostly interested in whipping up conflict. He portrays journalists as good human beings who, sad to say, are biased and defensive."

But to Kakutani, the book is ?essentially a collection of talking points hastily pasted together with large slatherings of the vitriol and exasperation the author seems to have accumulated during his years as a ?pi?ata,? his word for how he sometimes felt in the White House briefing room. In short, it's an extended exercise in Mr. Fleischer's spinning his own earlier spin." She wonders why he takes so little note of the media's general post-9/11 acceptance of his own talking points.

?In fact, the main usefulness of this book may be that it sheds more light on this White House's mindset vis-?-vis the press," she observed. "This is an administration, after all, that has preferred carefully choreographed photo ops and stage-managed town hall meetings to regular press conferences (the current President Bush has held fewer than 20 solo news conferences since taking office, compared with 83 held by his father during his four-year term), an administration that has tried to circumvent what it calls the ?filter? of the national press by courting regional media and having soldiers send form letters to local newspapers asserting that American troops had been welcomed 'with open arms' by Iraqis.?


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