FAT MAN IN A MIDDLE SEAT by Jack W. Germond

FAT MAN IN A MIDDLE SEAT

Forty Years of Covering Politics
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Engaging memoir by a veteran columnist, reporter, and pundit. Germond is a reporter’s reporter. He is a self-described “fat, bald guy who looked unkempt even in a freshly pressed suit, who played poker and the horses, and who sometimes drank too much.” Attracted to reporting because it was fun and by the beautiful simplicity of the process——find out what happened and put it in the paper”—Germond rose from general reporting in obscure papers to the promised land of journalism: Washington and presidential politics. He is unapologetic in his old-fashioned approach to covering politics: “horse race journalism,” finding out about who is winning or losing rather than analyzing the issues. Issues come and go, but who politicians are, what they are made of, is more important, and interesting, to him. While far from issueless—particularly on race, which becomes a theme throughout, from Germond’s own high school days in Louisiana to his coverage of George Wallace’s presidential campaign, bussing in Boston, Clinton’s relations with Jesse Jackson—this is a portrait gallery, and Germond is at his best when skewering, or more rarely praising, the famous or semifamous. On John McLaughlin, host of the TV program Germond appeared on for 15 years: “His ego [was] always greater than seemed justified by his charm and achievement.” On Bush: “The most vacuous man to occupy the Oval Office in my time.” On Clinton: “The most selfish and egocentric politician I have ever seen.” Of course all politicians are so, but Germond tends to like them; they are willing to take risks, and most of them really do want to do some good. That reporters may become too close to the politicians they cover and that both groups, at least here, are all male, are, however, issues Germond might have pursued in greater depth. Germond takes politics and reporting, though not himself, seriously, and still believes some good may come from both. His optimistic cynicism is refreshing. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-50098-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999