Fans of Bill Clinton were upset when the New York Times' Michiko Kakutani savaged the former president's autobiography in a front-page review in June. But compared to what Kakutani has just done to Ari Fleicher's new book, the Clinton review suddenly seems like a long, wet kiss.
Kakutani declares Fleischer's "Taking Heat" a "tedious and tendentious" work that offers nothing new except Fleischer's spin on his own spin. Comparing "Taking Heat" unfavorably with the reflections of earlier White House press secretaries, Kakutani says Fleischer's book "does not provide any new insights into the workings of the current White House. It does not present compelling portraits of cabinet members or members of the White House supporting cast. And it does not shed new light on the president or his methods of governance."
Instead, Kakutani says, Fleischer spends his time sucking up to Bush -- "one of the most uplifting, personnel-oriented, tough, demanding, humorous bosses you'll ever find" -- and bitching about the Washington press corps.
Fleischer praises Bush for staying "on message" and for giving reporters the same answer, again and again, no matter what questions they asked. "The same might be said of Mr. Fleischer," Kakutani writes. "In the case of the former, it has made for an administration accused by its critics of being secretive, insular and defensive. In the case of the latter, it has made for a book that feels insular, defensive and wholly predictable."