FEEDING THE BEAST by Kenneth T. Walsh


The White House versus the Press
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 A veteran White House correspondent gives mixed reviews to his colleagues and the powerful people on his beat. There are several problems with Walsh's chronicle of his ten years covering the presidency for U.S. News and World Report. Walsh remains on the beat and has been careful not to burn all his bridges. The result is a curious mix of unqualified criticism of people with whom he no longer has to deal (such as former Bush chief of staff John Sununu, whom Walsh accuses of ``arrogance and condescension''), and excuses for the mistakes of sources still to be tapped (such as Hillary Clinton, blamed for much of the administration's mishandling of the press but forgiven as an ``increasingly poignant figure''). Another problem is the danger of swift obsolescence in books attempting to be entirely up-to-the- minute. The danger for Walsh is compounded because nearly half of the book is devoted to the still-evolving Clinton presidency. And Walsh rationalizes the behavior of his press colleagues even as he concedes that ``the media's cult of conflict and criticism has gone too far.'' But there is also much to recommend this book. Walsh is a good reporter who has the quotes and citations to support his thesis that presidents who feed the White House press corps (the ``beast'') will be rewarded in kind. He attributes Reagan's long honeymoon with the press to the nurturing given journalists by a savvy staff. Clinton, on the other hand, has been punished for surrounding himself with people who distrusted White House reporters and treated them shabbily. Walsh describes the immense role personalities play in shaping the portrait of the presidency presented to the American people, and many observers of the press will find his revelations interesting. But one suspects that this book will become required reading only at the White House, where it will prove useful as a manual for staffers on the care and feeding of the media beast.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44290-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1996


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