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Carter's press secretary is still fuming, as you may have heard, about press coverage of the Carter White House. In the course of this derisive, name-calling harangue, Powell makes some valid points, admits to some mistakes, and proposes a remedy: the press should be as critical of itself as it is of the government. But just about everything here--from Amy's poor press (and unflattering photos) to the handling of the hostage crisis--also raises the question of why, indeed, Carter & Co. made such a poor national showing. Yes, the press has tended to hold Democratic presidents to stricter account than Republicans (expecting more of them, knowing liberal issues more thoroughly). And, yes, Powell has cause to resent the relatively gentle treatment of both Teddy Kennedy and Ronald Reagan--each of whom, unlike Carter, has had press partisans. How much, though, was the press biased against the ""crypto-Republican crackers in the White House"" (or their small-town, born-again Southern-ness)--and how much did Powell and the other Georgians overreact to what they perceived as bias? On the specifics, there is little perspective or proportion. Deteriorating relations are traced to the Bert Lance affair--where Powell speaks only of an incidental mistake of his, involving a false counter-allegation against Senator Percy. At Camp David, where the press was effectively stonewalled, ""their behavior""--in allegedly refusing to stand, at a show-event, for the national anthem--""is one of the more unpleasant memories from my four years at the White House."" ""A principal subject of this book,"" in turn, is the false cocaine charge against Hamilton Jordan, along with other anti-Jordan gossip. Here, overkill or not, Powell pinpoints some distinctly sleazy journalism (and some admissions and regrets). The supposed ""bugging"" of Andrew Young (re his PLO contacts) is an instructive example of inexperienced, over-hasty reporting--limited by Powell's non-disclosure of what sorts of ""intelligence reports"" the Administration did have. (Yes, there is press skepticism--but there are also reasons for it.) There then follows the book's longest outcry--""no single episode produced. . . more frustration for me""--against Kennedy's better press from the 1976 primary through the 1980 convention-windup embarrassment (which, says Powell, the Kennedyites planned). Kennedy is depicted as a spoiled child--whom the press coddled; Carter, as a sincere and honest fellow whom the press disliked and mistrusted. Lastly, there's mention of the Carter briefing-book affair, which Powell was instrumental in publicizing. He can't be written off just because he sounds, in his intemperance, like New York's Mayor Koch (whom he compares, unfavorably, to Georgia show-off Lester Maddox); but he makes it difficult, much of the time, to separate the message from the medium.

Pub Date: April 4th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow