Friday, May 16, 2003

More Sid

Bob Somerby brings to my attention this vacuous review of Blumenthal's book. Somerby notes in particular Maslin's interest in Blumenthal's discussions of the catty claims that Hillary didn't write It Takes a Village and stiffed the person who actually did.

As Somerby says:

MASLIN (pgh 1): When her book “It Takes a Village” was published in 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton was assailed for not mentioning the ghostwriter who had been paid $120,000 to help. Her aide and confidant Sidney Blumenthal is now ready to set the record straight on this Clinton contretemps and hundreds of others. His most often repeated assertion, throughout an 800-plus-page memoir and political treatise, is this: “The charge was, of course, completely false.”

Meow! Hiss! Spit! Me-ow!! For the record, you might be surprised to learn that Blumenthal doesn’t write, “The charge was, of course, completely false” in his brief passage about It Takes a Village. In this part of his impressive book, he is helping readers get a sense of the endless, mindless, inane attacks that pundits loved lodging against Mrs. Clinton. And Maslin seems eager to show that he’s right. Blumenthal devotes two paragraphs to this incident (in an 822-page book); Maslin also gives it two paragraphs—in an 1100-word review! Why is this nonsense in paragraph one? To convince you that Blumenthal’s book is pure trivia. But then, early reviews have tended to focus on trivia—the kind our modern “press corps” dearly loves. Blumenthal’s book deals with troubling topics—matters that ought to concern all Americans. But simpering scribes like the Times’ Janet Maslin are eager to turn your gaze somewhere else. They feature minor episodes to avoid discussing the damage that’s been done by their class.

Let's take a look at how the media handled that issue - (Clinton Wars, p. 173)

In March, NBC News claimed a scoop about it: the First Lady had used an unacknowledged ghostwriter. The ghostwriter who had first worked with her on early drafts of the book happened to be Barbara Feinman, whom Sally Quinn and a number of Washington Post writers had used over the years on their books. The facts were that Feinman had been hired at the beginning of the project, but then Hillary had decided to write the book on her own, which she did by longhand, not being accomplished on a computer. Feinman was in any case paid $120,000, as earlier promised, though she had no part in the final composition of the text... Hillary's aides offered to show her handwritten manuscript to Tim Russert, the NBC News Washington bureau chief, but he declined and stood by the original broadcast. The Washington Post, however, did view the pages and publish an article reporting that Hillary had apparently written her book herself.