CALL THE BRIEFING! by Marlin Fitzwater


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Selective but effectively tart recollections of a hectic decade as a spokesman for the Reagan and Bush administrations. When President Reagan's press secretary, Larry Speakes, left government at the start of 1987, Fitzwater, a Kansas farm boy turned government press officer, was hired away from the Treasury Department to replace him and stayed on by invitation during the Bush era. Eschewing chronology in favor of a format that allows him to probe major topics at some length, the author also forgoes recaps of the Panama invasion and Persian Gulf War (on grounds these events deserve and will get more detailed treatment in other books). He does provide anecdotal takes on the White House press corps (liberal to a fault, in his informed opinion), the awesome mechanics of daily briefings wherever in the world the president may be, a series of summit conferences (including the tempest-tossed sessions held on warships offshore Malta), and how chiefs of staff (Donald Regan, Sam Skinner, John Sununu) are sacked. Covered as well are media relations during periods when a chief executive's health commands international attention, how the fourth estate and the White house spin breaking or running stories, and the genuinely feckless reelection campaign run by Bush forces. Along his engaging way, Fitzwater (who caused a global stir when with malice aforethought he referred to Mikhail Gorbachev as a drugstore cowboy) settles some old scores with individual reporters and news-gathering organizations. Among others, he taxes Mike Wallace and William Satire for feeding ""the fires of [the Iran-Contra] scandal"" and faults Dan Rather's minions, whose ongoing enmity presumably reflected the grudge held by their boss in the wake of a 1988 confrontation with Bush on prime-time TV. In brief, then, an experienced, professional communicator's illuminating, behind-thescenes insights on how American chief executives make and shape the news.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0738834580
Page count: 356pp
Publisher: Times