Nobody expected that George W. Bush's book, "Decision Points," was going to compare to the memoirs of Ulysses Grant. As expected, book reviewers found it wanting as a literary work. But still, every book by an ex-president is seen as an opportunity for legacy-polishing and the press is most accommodating.
In the summer of 2004, the networks celebrated Bill Clinton's memoir as a momentous news event. They even employed a ridiculous adjective for the man -- "candid." Certain soon-to-be-disgraced news anchors aggressively promoted the 957-page Clinton opus. On "Larry King Live," Dan Rather obsequiously boasted he'd read Clinton from cover to cover, and "I think it compares very favorably with Ulysses S. Grant's gold standard of presidential autobiographies."
So how would they react to W?
Bush knew that journalists would not rush to embrace his book. He had arranged to be interviewed by NBC's Matt Lauer for an hour-long prime-time interview special, and liberals weren't impressed. It wasn't going to be confrontational enough. (It would need to include actual waterboarding to be confrontational enough for these people.) The New York Times sniffed that "'Lauer/Bush' is not likely to join 'Frost/Nixon' in the public imagination."
So where is the Gray Lady to whine when Lauer interviews President Obama? During those lovefests, Lauer sounds more like "Access Hollywood" than "Meet the Press."
Lauer threw some hardballs at Bush, most notably suggesting that it was ill-advised for Bush to suggest the worst moment in his presidency occurred when idiotic rapper Kanye West shouted during an NBC telethon that Bush didn't care about black people. Lauer toed the liberal line: "You're not saying that the worst moment in your presidency was watching the misery in Louisiana. You're saying it was when someone insulted you because of that."
If this is the best he could do, Lauer never laid a glove.
But the other two networks worked hard to ignore the Bush book's debut. Was it because NBC won the bidding war, such as it was? CBS pretty much waited until it could air its own interview on the 14th, in which reporter Jim Axelrod also re-hammered Bush on Hurricane Katrina: "'Failure to act' could have been the subtitle of the chapter on Hurricane Katrina. ... There was a common feeling that after Katrina, you could never fully regain the trust of the American people." Blah, blah.
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