Cover image for All the truth is out : the week politics went tabloid
Title:
All the truth is out : the week politics went tabloid
Author:
Bai, Matt.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
Physical Description:
xv, 263 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Summary:
"The former chief political correspondent for The New York Times Magazine brilliantly revisits the Gary Hart affair and looks at how it changed forever the intersection of American media and politics. In 1987, Gary Hart--articulate, dashing, refreshingly progressive--seemed a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination for president and led George H.W. Bush comfortably in the polls. And then: rumors of marital infidelity, an indelible photo of Hart and a model snapped near a fatefully named yacht (Monkey Business), and it all came crashing down in a blaze of flashbulbs, the birth of 24-hour news cycles, tabloid speculation, and late-night farce. Matt Bai shows how the Hart affair marked a crucial turning point in the ethos of political media--and, by extension, politics itself--when candidates' 'character' began to draw more fixation than their political experience. Bai offers a poignant, highly original, and news-making reappraisal of Hart's fall from grace (and overlooked political legacy) as he makes the compelling case that this was the moment when the paradigm shifted--private lives became public, news became entertainment, and politics became the stuff of Page Six"--
General Note:
Includes index.

"A Borzoi book"--Title page verso.
Language:
English
Contents:
Preface: What It Took -- Troublesome Gulch -- Tilting Toward Culture Death -- Out There -- Follow Me Around -- "I Do Not Think That's a Fair Question" -- All the Truth Is Out -- Exile -- A Lesser Land -- A Note on Sourcing -- About the Author.
ISBN:
9780307273383
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Item Holds
Searching...
E840.8.H285 B35 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Searching...
Searching...
E840.8.H285 B35 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Searching...
Searching...
E840.8.H285 B35 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Searching...
Searching...
E840.8.H285 B35 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

"In 1987, Gary Hart-articulate, dashing, refreshingly progressive-seemed a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination for president and led George H. W. Bush comfortably in the polls. And then- rumors of marital infidelity, an indelible photo of Hart and a model snapped near a fatefully named yacht ( Monkey Business ), and it all came crashing down in a blaze of flashbulbs, the birth of 24-hour news cycles, tabloid speculation, and late-night farce. Matt Bai shows how the Hart affair marked a crucial turning point in the ethos of political media-and, by extension, politics itself-when candidates' "character" began to draw more fixation than their political experience. Bai offers a poignant, highly original, and news-making reappraisal of Hart's fall from grace (and overlooked political legacy) as he makes the compelling case that this was the moment when the paradigm shifted-private lives became public, news became entertainment, and politics became the stuff of Page Six."


Author Notes

Matt Bai is the national political columnist for  Yahoo News . For more than a decade he was a political correspondent for  The New York Times Magazine, where he covered three presidential campaigns. He is the author of  The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, named a notable book of 2007 by  The New York Times. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
 
www.mattbai.com

@mattbai


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Before 1987, when front-running Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart was photographed on a yacht with a beautiful model sitting on his lap, such examples of womanizing had been overlooked by political reporters. Hart's fall from grace signaled massive change in the way that politicians would be covered, with more emphasis on moral character, fairly narrowly defined, and less on ideas and issues. National political columnist Bai (The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, 2007) examines how we've come to such trivial coverage of political candidates. Still maintaining a right to privacy while longing for elder-statesman status, Hart offered prescient predictions on issues from energy dependence to Islamic terrorism but couldn't see the changing trend in political news coverage. Bai ponders the influences of the Vietnam and Watergate era and the culture wars, which led to a new focus on personal morality, along with such changes in journalism as rising celebrity coverage and the 24-hour news cycle. Bai laments not only what the change in political reporting cost Hart personally but also what it has cost the nation.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Political columnist Bai (The Argument) makes a persuasive case for reexamining the career of presidential candidate Gary Hart, whose downfall in the wake of speculation about an extramarital affair, he argues, marks a turning point in the deterioration of American political journalism and democracy. Bai analyzes the forces coalescing around the scandal that brought down the Democratic frontrunner in May 1987, and captures those frenzied days in a masterfully written account. The possibility that a candidate might be lying about his sex life was not usually relevant, given the close relationship between major news outlets and politicians, but much had changed, especially given Watergate's influence on a generation of reporters. By the time allegations of adultery met Hart's campaign in New Hampshire, two previously separate streams, the tabloid press and political journalism, joined forces. The result has been "an unbridgeable divide... between our candidates and our media" and an accompanying lack of substance and transparency in the political process. Based on extensive interviews with reporters and campaign insiders, including Hart and Donna Rice (the then 29-year-old model photographed sitting on his lap), Bai appraises Hart the politician, political visionary, and high-minded yet obstinately private man, and asks what the country might have lost with his foreshortened career. This first-rate work of political journalism will fan embers long thought to have gone out. Photos. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Starred Review. On May 6, 1987, journalist Paul Taylor jarred Gary Hart, the leading Democratic presidential contender, with the question "Have you ever committed adultery?" Bai (national political columnist, Yahoo! News; The Argument) claims that this question changed the political landscape, and his account makes this case forcefully and with insight. Bai spent 20 hours interviewing Hart about his life and politics and his alleged tryst with model Donna Rice to offer this sometimes funny but more often unhappy narrative of Hart's political demise-and more important, the morphing of responsible political journalism into the paparazzi hordes that American celebrity culture demands. He argues that Hart's fall was, in no small part, owing to his arrogance and the development of new technologies such as fax machines and CNN, which spread truth and lies 24/7. VERDICT The author takes inspiration from Richard Ben Cramer, whose What It Takes (1992) is often considered the best book about any presidential campaign. Here Bai shows he is Cramer's worthy successor-his important cautionary tale will resonate with journalists and members of the media as well as with political players and readers of current history. [See Prepub Alert, 5/4/14.]-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Candidates for president--and for most other significant offices, really--don't try to explain their ideas or their theories of the moment anymore. It's hard to know if they really have any. Technology had a lot to do with this, of course. Kerry's controversial quote overwhelmed his campaign, at least for a few days, because of the twenty-four-hour cable news cycle that hadn't even existed when Hart ran back in 1987--a senselessly competitive environment where inexperienced producers fixate on whatever minutiae seems new, to the exclusion of all else, and where reporters and pundits rush into TV studios armed with little more than vague impressions. (It struck me, watching some of the coverage of the Kerry "nuisance" controversy, how few of the commentators seemed to have actually read the piece they were talking about.) But the reverberation of that one comment would have been exponentially louder just four years later, with the sudden popularity of blogs and sites like YouTube and Facebook, and it would have been downright deafening four years after that, after Twitter had taken over the world. By now, every candidate knows that a single misspoken line, a single emotional or ill-advisedly candid moment, can become a full-blown, existential crisis by the time the bus pulls up at the next rally. And if there's not much room for nuance in a cable TV report, there's none in 140 characters, which means that even a well- articulated argument can (and almost certainly will) be reduced and distorted by the time it reaches the vast majority of voters who will pay attention. Rarely is any candidate willing to risk sudden implosion by actually thinking through the complex issues out loud, as the most talented politicians of Hart's day were accustomed to doing; it's safer to traffic in poll-tested, blandly comforting gibberish about "middle-class jobs" and "ending business as usual," which disturbs no one and does no harm. It's safer to tell yourself, as Joe Lockhart did, that you really don't need to cater to reporters anymore, because you can talk to your own email list directly instead. Candidates routinely complain that reporters never talk to them about the actual substance of governing, but the truth is that with few exceptions, when you ask them to do exactly that, their reflexive response is no. At the heart of this changed dynamic, though, isn't merely a technological shift in the nation's media, but a cultural one. There was a time when politicians and the journalists who covered them, however adversarial their relationship might become at times, shared a basic sense of common purpose. The candidate's job was to win an argument about the direction of the country, and the media's job was to explain that argument and the tactics with which it was disseminated. Neither could succeed without the basic, if sometimes grudging, cooperation of the other, and often, as in the case of Hart and some of his older colleagues in the media, there existed a genuine trust and camaraderie. Modern media critics might deride these kinds of relationships as coziness or corruption, but there was a very real benefit to it for the voters, which was context. Reporters who really knew a politician could tell the difference between, say, a candidate who had misspoken from exhaustion and one who didn't know his facts. They could be expected to discern between a rank hypocrite, on one hand, and a candidate who had actually thought something through and adjusted his views, on the other. In his engaging book The Eighteen-Day Running Mate, about Tom Eagleton's disastrous foray into national politics, Joshua Glasser describes how a bevy of reporters actually camped out in Eagleton's hotel suite so they could be there if McGovern called to offer him the number two spot on the ticket. (He did, and they were.) Later, when Eagleton's candidacy was in peril, a few reporters went down to the tennis courts at the lodge where they and McGovern were staying, because the nominee was playing a match and they wanted to ask him a few questions. McGovern invited them to ride back to the lodge with him so they could talk. Glasser relays these scenes as if they were commonplace, and yet they jolted me when I read them; to someone who has covered multiple presidential campaigns in the modern era, it couldn't have sounded any more bizarre if he had reported that McGovern had personally murdered a reporter and disposed of the body. In today's political climate, even if I could somehow manage to find out where the candidate was spending his downtime, I wouldn't get within a hundred yards of that tennis court without being turned away, probably with a stern lecture. Today, even a phone call from someone like me requesting a routine interview mobilizes a phalanx of highly paid consultants whose job it is to deflect my questions and then, if they see any merit in having the candidate cooperate, to orchestrate and rehearse his responses. "You didn't prep for a candidate's meeting with Jack Germond," Joe Trippi told me when we talked. "What you'd want is for a candidate to just have a beer with Germond and answer his questions, you know? And back then, frankly, most of them could." Now, Trippi told me bluntly, "No one would walk into an interview with you unprepped. I wouldn't let it happen." That's largely because, beginning with Watergate and culminating in Gary Hart's unraveling, the cardinal objective of all political journalism had shifted, from a focus on agendas to a focus on narrow notions of character, from illuminating worldviews to exposing falsehoods. Whatever sense of commonality between candidates and reporters that existed in McGovern's day had, by the time my generation arrived on the scene, been replaced by a kind of entrenched cold war. We aspired chiefly to show politicians for the impossibly flawed human beings they were--a single-minded pursuit that reduced complex careers to isolated transgressions. As the former senator Bob Kerrey, who had been accused of war crimes in Vietnam after a distinguished career in public service, told me once: "We're not the worst thing we've ever done in our lives, and there's a tendency to think that we are." That quote, I thought, should have been posted on the wall of every newsroom in the country, just to remind us that it was true. Predictably, politicians responded to all this with a determination to give us nothing that might aid in the hunt to expose them, even if it meant obscuring the convictions and contradictions that made them actual human beings. Both sides retreated to our respective camps, where we strategized about how to outwit and outflank the other, occasionally to our own benefit but rarely to the voters'. Maybe this made our media a sharper guardian of the public interest against frauds and hypocrites. But it also made it hard for any thoughtful politician to offer arguments that might be considered nuanced or controversial. And, just as consequential, the post-Hart climate made it much easier for candidates who weren't especially thoughtful--who didn't have any complex understanding of governance, or even much affinity for it--to gain national prominence. When a politician could duck any real intellectual scrutiny simply by deriding the evident triviality of the media, when the status quo was to never say anything that required more than ten words' worth of explanation, then pretty much anyone could rail against the system and glide through the process without having to establish more than a passing familiarity with the issues. As long as you weren't delinquent on your taxes or having an affair with a stripper or engaged in some other form of rank duplicity, you could run as a "Tea Partier" or a "populist" without ever having to elaborate on what you actually believed or what you would do for the country. All of which probably has some bearing on why, more than a quarter century after Hart disappeared from political life, both our elected leaders and our political media have fallen so far in the esteem of voters who judge both to be smaller than the country deserves. At the outset of Barack Obama's second term in office, only a quarter of Americans said they trusted government to do the right thing all or even most of the time, according to Pew Research polling. (That number later dropped after a series of self-manufactured budget crises in Congress.) Meanwhile, between 1997 and 2013, trust in the mass media fell almost ten points. Four decades after the legend of Woodward and Bernstein came into being, only 28 percent of Americans were willing to say that journalists contributed a lot to society's well-being--a showing that lagged behind almost every other professional group. Thank heaven for lawyers. Excerpted from All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid by Matt Bai All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Preface What It Tookp. xi
1 Troublesome Gulchp. 3
2 Tilting Toward Culture Deathp. 27
3 Out Therep. 48
4 Follow Me Aroundp. 83
5 "I Do Not Think That's a Fair Question"p. 118
6 All the Truth Is Outp. 163
7 Exilep. 196
8 A Lesser Landp. 221
A Note on Sourcingp. 245
Acknowledgmentsp. 247
Indexp. 251