Fleischer Watch, Part 1.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
March 21 2005 4:41 PM

The Fleischer Watch

Introducing an ongoing inquiry into dishonest or insane assertions buried inside Ari Fleischer's White House memoir.

In his new book, Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House, Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary, lays out various "biases and predilections" of "the liberal press." (The passage is actually an extended quotation from ABC News's Web log "The Note"; Fleischer praises it as "breathtakingly frank.") * Among these is its 'belief that government is a mechanism to solve the nation's problems," its insistence that "emotional examples of suffering … are good ways to illustrate economic statistic stories," and its tendency to stay "fixated on the unemployment rate." Fleischer might just as well have complained that the press believes the Earth revolves around the sun.

At risk of belaboring the obvious:

  1. If the government doesn't exist to solve problems, what the hell do we have it for? We can argue about the particular problems government should solve, and about how successfully government addresses them at any given time, but not, I think, about whether government should be in the problem-solving business.
  2. Un-picturesque though they may be, people do tend to suffer when the economy is faltering, as it did throughout the period covered in Fleischer's memoir. If a lagging economy didn't cause people to suffer, there would be no great reason to keep track of the economy at all. Anecdotes about individual sufferers help the public understand in a concrete way what it means to have a weak economy.
  3. The principal way people suffer when economic growth is weak or nonexistent is by losing their jobs. The statistic that keeps track of the people who lose their jobs is the unemployment rate (at the moment a so-so 5.4 percent). Fleischer doesn't want the press to focus on the "micro" story of individual suffering, but neither does he want the press to focus on the "macro" story of economic statistics. In effect, Fleischer is saying that it's unfair for the press to cover the economy at all.

Correction, March 18: The original version of this column failed to note that the words, though quoted with approval, were not Fleischer's own.

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The Supreme Court, Throughout Its History, Has Been a Massive Disappointment

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 5:19 PM Social Outcasts Republican candidates are retreating from debates on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.
  Business
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
  Life
Education
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 5:47 PM California Gov. Vetoes Bill Requiring Warrant for Police Surveillance Drones
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.