SPIN CYCLE With so many different scandal to his credit and numerous ongoing investigations pending, President Clinton has been bombarded by the media in a fashion not seen since the last days of the Nixon administration. Despite this unwanted attention, Clinton has managed to maintain lofty approval ratings and successfully deflect even the most ardent attacks. How does he do it This question is answered in full in Spin Cycle, a backroom look at how news is created and packaged in the White House and the methods used to distribute it to the public. In painting a detailed picture of the hand-to-hand combat known as a press conference, Kurtz shows how the use of controlled leaks, meticulously worded briefs, and the outright avoidance of certain questions allows the White House to control the scope and content of the stories that make it to the front page and the nightly network news. As Kurtz makes clear, the president and First Lady are convinced that the media are out to get them, while the journalists covering the White House are constantly frustrated at the stonewalling and the lack of cooperation they encounter while trying to do their jobs. In the middle is the White House press secretary Mike McCurry, a master at defusing volatile situations and walking the fine line with the press.
Though less paranoid and cynical of the media than Clinton, he often finds himself on both ends of personal attacks and vendettas that veer far outside the arena of objective reporting. The anecdotes and carefully buried information that Kurtz has uncovered give this book a brisk pace, along with ample invaluable information that cuts to the core of this age of media overkill. Kurtz focuses mainly on White House response to scandal news in 1996 and 1997, and he does not purport to cover most other aspects of the relationship between the president and the press. And within the narrow scope of his research, he had only fragmentary access to important information. For legal and political reasons, white House aides were probably not inclined to volunteer the whole truth. Whats more, the story is still unfolding.
Though he adds nothing to what is known about recent happenings in the Oval Office, he does shed light on a subject that remains of considerable importance: the techniques used by the Clinton administration to shape the way it is portrayed in the press. It never seriously takes up the issue that seems to lie at its core. Why the press failed to prepare the public for what Kurtz calls the "tabloid presidency" or, for the revelations that today so dominate the news. The fact is that during the 1996 campaign, most major news organizations did not treat Clintons growing ethical problems in any comprehensive way.
In particular, the media opted to pass on the Paula Jones case. This lapse may be explained in part by the success of the spin-control methods Kurtz describes. But there must be deeper explanations as well. Bill Clinton is the most investigated president since Richard Nixon-facing inquiries into Whitewater, campaign fundraising abuses, and sexual misconduct-and yet improbably began 1998 with approval ratings as high as those of Ronald Reagan.
But the new year has brought a barrage of new allegations, and the president and his advisers face once again the challenge of spinning news to their advantage, a challenge they have mastered many times before. In Spin Cycle, Kurtz reveals the inside workings of Clintons well-oiled propaganda machine-arguably the most successful team of White House spin doctors in history. He takes the reader into closed-door meetings where Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Mike McCurry, Lanny Davis, and other top officials plot strategy to beat back the scandals and neutralize a hostile press corps through stonewalling, stage managing, and outright intimidation. He depicts a White House obsessed with spin and pulls back the curtain on events and tactics that the administration would prefer to keep hidden.
The secret report the Hillary Clinton ordered on a reporter investigating the Whitewater affair as part of a plan to discredit her. A tense, almost paranoid White House atmosphere in which the spinmeisters do not question the President about the various scandals because they dont want to learn information they might have to reveal to prosecutors or the press. the secret meeting between a Clinton operative and the editor of The New York times that led to a presidential interview in which Clinton knew the questions in advance. Bill Clintons success in reaping favorable publicity by secretly courting selected reporters and columnists in off-the-record White House meetings. Al Gores feelings of betrayal as the scandal-hungry press turned on him and jeopardized his presidential candidacy in 2000. Spin Cycle is a drama in which political operatives wrestle with their consciences as the struggle to protect the boss.
As the scandal drums beat louder and louder, Kurtz shows what it takes for the president and his people to survive, and what happens to the truth along the way. This is a solid interesting book not only on the Clinton Administration but on how this administration has set a course for future politicians that will follow. I am not a Clinton fan by any stretch but he sure knows how to market the Presidency and Kurtz does a great job of exposing some of the detailed activities going on in our White House. Kurtz has some solid inside sources and gave me a wonderful view of the spinning of news. Both sides do it but Clinton seems to be the master of it.
Kurtz attempts to lift the curtain to reveal all of the media antics and spinning that occurs between the White House and the press. It leaves on wondering however, just how does Kurtz know what hes writing in this book. How do we know if the accounts depicted in it are true There are some parts of the book that go into much detail such as exact quotes of the president and his advisors, probes into the minds of the White House aides, and even such things as what kind of tie he would be wearing on a particular day. when first reading the book, one finds themselves lapping it up like a kitten with milk, but near the end you finally begin to ask yourself: how in the hell does he know what he knows... All American presidents in the modern era have had a special group of political advisors to assist the president in his dealings with the media. This isnt anything that is new.
But the Clinton spin team has had more than just an ordinary amount of work on their hands. This has been a full scale workout from the very first days of Clintons initial term as president, to the present day, with little time for rest. Jest when it appears that the spin meister's can have some time to catch their breath, another juicy tidbit of political misbehavior reaches the public, setting the spin cycle into motion once again. Clinton has never had a good relationship with the media as a whole. IN the past, the press was a little more sympathetic to presidential blunders. Today, they are relentless in their pursuit of any newsworthy information; pushing, pulling, twisting, and choking their victims of any last morsel of dignity.
Who is the real villain here Is it the president for committing unethical acts, or is it the media for submitting to ruthless, tabloid-like tactics This book leaves you wondering. Maybe the real blame should be placed on the public. After all, if the people did not purchase the newspapers and watch the new stories, they would eventually cease. We like to blame the press for circulating dirty laundry. But arent we, the people, equally to blame if we buy these magazines and newspapers and watch these television programs Whether you like politics or not, you will enjoy "Spin Cycle." Just sit back and let Howard Kurtz take you on a journey through the political media circus, where the ringmasters on the presidents team manage to keep their leaders approval rating surprisingly high.
In spite of the never ending parade of scandals.