Conason & Lyons - The Hunting of the President

July 14, 2004

Joe Conason, Gene Lyons
The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton
Thomas Dunne Books; (February 2000)

I dug this out and read it while waiting for the library to get Bill Clinton's autobiography to me.

I knew the general story, but I did not know the details of the Whitewater investegation. The frustrating thing about the whole Clinton hunt is that I now effectively give them a free pass anytime I hear a story about financial skulldugerry on their part - there has been so much meaningless smoke that I assume that where there is smoke there is a cleverly placed smudge pot.

The other thing to watch in Conason & Lyons work is their use of "must have". They criticize most of the people who wrote anti-Clinton books for jumping to conclusions or making arguments by juxtaposing "facts" without proving the connections between those facts. This is fair, as is the fact that from time to time Lyons and Conason talk about what people "must have known" or "probably intended" and then tell their story without accounting for the implicit error bars in their chain of argument.

Their case stands up despite those holes, in part because they are discussing a "loose cabal" of people who for various reasons hated Bill and were very willing to dig for dirt or make up stories in order to get him. However, when the core to their argument is that the national news media fell down on its duty to check its facts and sources, and ended up in an echo chamber repeating accusations without ever going back to check each other's work, well, it makes the reader hold Lyons and Conason to a higher standard.

It was a nice quick read, and now I am working on Clinton's big book. I won't finish it before the library will want it back, but in the early pages of Clinton's autobiography I do see some comparisons with the early pages of Grant's autobiography.

Posted by Red Ted at July 14, 2004 10:27 AM | TrackBack
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