SPIN THIS: All the Ways We Don't Tell the Truth
Press, the liberal cohost of CNN's Crossfire, has the credentials to study "spin"; after all he is a respectable political pundit who has necessarily practiced the not-so-noble art and has been in turn spun by the best political operatives. Happily for readers, he appears no worse for the experience and maintains a downright playful persona in this lighter-than-air look at the subject. He manages to score direct hits on politicians, fellow members of the press, dead presidents, advertisers and lawyers. He takes obvious joy in the skewering of everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Gary Condit, from Hillary Rodham Clinton, to, well, everyone. Here's his description of a typical reader hitting the snooze button in the morning: Spin: "Just nine more minutes, that's all I need." Truth: I can't stand one more day at that goddamned job. Underneath the mirth, Press also manages to make the important point that spin can be corrosive, misleading and can undermine democratic institutions. Orwellian "Newspeak" has, in Press's view, strong parallels with what he calls "Washingtonspeak." But this book is primarily fun and funny. Especially clever are Press's "translations" of various "spins." Senator Lott upon Senator Jeffords becoming an independent: "There's something liberating about being in the minority" (translation: "I hate no longer being able to wear my Leader's uniform..."). Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill on nuclear power: "If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear power is really very good" (translation: "If you set aside the mountains, Switzerland is really like New Jersey"). (Nov. 13)
Forecast: Since humor is on hiatus, this may be an unfortunate casualty of recent events.