THE POWER AND THE STORY: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W. Bush

Evan Cornog, Author . Penguin Press $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59420-022-9

Repackaging presidential history for our age of "spin," Cornog's lively if reductionist work argues that it's "the battle of stories, not the debate on issues, that determines how Americans respond to a presidential contender." In making this argument, Cornog, associate dean at Columbia's journalism school and author of Hats in the Ring , a campaign history, touches on the roles of candidates, the public, the press and historians in crafting (or debunking) images and reputations. No reader will put down the book without greater appreciation of the role of tales, both tall and true, in our public history. To his credit, Cornog only occasionally drops into cynicism, as when he says that the role of images shows "the relative unimportance of truth." But sometimes he succumbs to melodrama, as in his grandiose conclusion: "The future of the nation, and the world, depends upon the abilities of American citizens to choose the right stories." And devoting a full chapter only to George W. Bush seems a ploy for media attention in this election year. More seriously, Cornog shortchanges such other important historical factors as presidential actions and national power. In sum, this is a pleasant but not weighty work. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (On sale Aug. 9)

Reviewed on: 05/31/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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