McGinniss theorizes that a bookstore clerk somewhere opened up a box of his books, read a copy and offered the National Enquirer the juicy stuff. Whatever the transaction, the Enquirer published McGinniss’s most salacious findings days before the release. Presto, the book’s public face took shape. “The stuff that the National Enquirer blasted out — that’s about three pages out of 320,” McGinniss says.
The mainstream media, suggests McGinniss, doesn’t have enough pine-paneled rooms with plush leather chairs. It never bothered to read the other 317 pages. “Howard Kurtz and others jumped on TV and said it was trash without having read it,” he says, referring to the Daily Beast’s Washington bureau chief and longtime media reporter. (My own full disclosure: I’ve spent hours with both the Suskind and McGinniss volumes but still haven’t knocked out the combined 800 pages — not easy doubling as a literary critic and media reporter.) McGinniss says he dug up a bunch of revelations that media organizations, in vetting the onetime vice presidential candidate, never found.
The pipe-tobacco perspective on all this fast-twitch book opining is that time will sort things out. As turnover in the Obama administration proceeds and as Palin keeps talking, more folks will emerge to either confirm or knock down the stories that Suskind and McGinniss present. Though it is comforting to suppose that a noble truth will ultimately win out, the more likely scenario is that the partisans will recycle all the pushback — both the substantive and the dubious — the next time either author publishes anything of consequence.
In his Slate piece, Weisberg argues that this ideas marketplace has already pronounced winners and losers. Whereas an author like The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward meticulously stays within factual boundaries, Weisberg argues, Suskind takes his liberties. Responds Suskind: “Historians will judge Bob’s books versus mine. I hope that the disclosures, insights, and framing in my books will endure longer than the ones in Bob’s books.”
When asked about that, Woodward declined to comment. He said he hadn’t finished reading Suskind’s book.
Erik Wemplewrites about the media at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple.
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