Spin Cycle


With so many different scandal to his credit and numerous ongoing
investigations pending, President Clinton has been bombarded by the media in a
fashion not seen since the last days of the Nixon administration. Despite this
unwanted attention, Clinton has managed to maintain lofty approval ratings and
successfully deflect even the most ardent attacks. How does he do it? This
question is answered in full in Spin Cycle, a backroom look at how news is
created and packaged in the White House and the methods used to distribute it
to the public. In painting a detailed picture of the hand-to-hand combat known
as a press conference, Kurtz shows how the use of controlled leaks, meticulously
worded briefs, and the outright avoidance of certain questions allows the White
House to control the scope and content of the stories that make it to the front
page and the nightly network news. As Kurtz makes clear, the president and
First Lady are convinced that the media are out to get them, while the journalists covering the White House are constantly frustrated at the stonewalling and the lack of cooperation they encounter while trying to do their jobs. In the middle is the White House press secretary Mike McCurry, a master at defusing volatile situations and walking the fine line with the press. Though less paranoid and cynical of the media than Clinton, he often finds himself on both ends of personal attacks and vendettas that veer far outside the arena of objective reporting. The anecdotes and carefully buried information that Kurtz has uncovered give this book a brisk pace, along with ample invaluable information that cuts to the core of this age of media overkill.
Kurtz focuses mainly on White House response to scandal news in 1996
and 1997, and he does not purport to cover most other aspects of the relationship between the president and the press. And within the narrow scope of his research, he had only fragmentary access to important information. For legal and political reasons, white House aides were probably not inclined to volunteer the whole truth. What?s more, the story is still unfolding. Though he adds nothing to what is known about recent happenings in the Oval Office, he does shed light on a subject that remains of considerable importance: the techniques used by the Clinton administration to shape the way it is portrayed in the press. It never seriously takes up the issue that seems to lie at its core. Why the press failed to prepare the public for what Kurtz calls the "tabloid presidency" or, for the revelations that today so dominate the news. The fact is that during the 1996 campaign, most major news organizations did not treat Clinton?s growing ethical problems in any comprehensive way. In particular, the media opted to pass on the Paula Jones case. This lapse may be explained in part by the success of the spin-control methods Kurtz describes. But there must be deeper explanations as well.
Bill Clinton is the most investigated president since Richard
Nixon--facing inquiries into Whitewater, campaign fundraising abuses, and
sexual misconduct--and yet improbably began 1998 with approval ratings as
high as those of Ronald Reagan. But the new year has brought a barrage of new
allegations, and the president and his advisers face once again the challenge of
spinning news to their advantage, a challenge they have mastered many times
In Spin Cycle, Kurtz reveals the inside workings of Clinton?s well-oiled
propaganda machine--arguably the most successful team of White House spin
doctors in history. He takes the reader into closed-door meetings where Bill
Clinton, Al Gore, Mike McCurry, Lanny Davis, and other top officials plot
strategy to beat back the scandals and neutralize a hostile press corps through
stonewalling, stage managing, and outright intimidation. He depicts a White
House obsessed with spin and pulls back the curtain on events and tactics that
the administration would prefer to keep hidden. The secret report the Hillary
Clinton ordered on a reporter investigating the Whitewater affair as part of a
plan to discredit her. A tense, almost paranoid White House atmosphere in
which the spinmeisters do not question the President about the various scandals
because they don?t want to learn information they might have to reveal to
prosecutors or the press. the secret meeting between a Clinton operative and the editor of The New York times that led to a presidential interview in which
Clinton knew the questions in advance. Bill Clinton?s success in reaping
favorable publicity by secretly courting selected reporters and columnists in
off-the-record White House meetings.