Fat Man in a Middle Seat: Forty Years of Covering Politics

Jack W. Germond, Author Random House (NY) $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-375-50098-5

The journalistic antithesis of the crusading Anderson, Germond looks back on a long career and admits: ""My indignation threshold was too high to sustain me as an investigative reporter. I couldn't get worked up about the mayor getting his driveway paved with public asphalt."" The statement, with its smooth blend of self-needling irony and unapologetic embrace of modest expectation, is representative of this outstanding reporter's memoir. Germond may be familiar to most readers as the chagrined, portly liberal at whom conservatives Pat Buchanan and Fred Barnes threw their verbal harpoons on television's The McLaughlin Group. But throughout a long career as a political correspondent and columnist with the Gannett chain, the Washington Star and the Baltimore Sun, he has been a reporter's reporter (and, he lets readers know repeatedly, a reporter's drinker). Though some politicos arouse his contempt (George Bush receives a drubbing), Germond actually likes politicians--even when he dislikes their politics. His anecdotes are models of concision. Reflecting on how journalism has changed, he recalls how the press let George Wallace's womanizing slide even when a woman plunked herself down among reporters and declared: ""That George Wallace. He didn't even take off his shoes."" In his descriptions of encounters with Nelson Rockefeller, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, among others, Germond doesn't like to make himself the issue, but his consistent voice infuses the book with his character. Rumpled, cantankerous and blessed with a sense of humor as dry as the best martini, Germond tells great political stories and tells them expertly. (Nov.)
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