Notes on “Stonewalled,” part 1

Over the weekend I read Sharyl Attkisson’s book Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington from cover to cover. I read it in preparation for a brief interview we are scheduled to record with Attkisson for the next Power Line podcast. I would like to share notes, thoughts and excerpts in a series of posts, of which this is the first.

My inspiration here is Jay Nordlinger and his Impromptus at NRO. When Jay flips over a book or a movie or a conference or an interview, he uses his column to empty his notebook. (This past summer, for example, Jay devoted a three-part series of Impromptus to “D’Souza Nation.”) That’s what I’d like to do in this series.

• Attkisson is an outstanding investigative reporter and Stonewalled is a gripping book. To use the cliche, I couldn’t put it down. (Sorry.) I rate it among the five most important books for conservatives published in 2014. It deserves your attention and repays it with increased understanding of the scandals that have characterized the Obama administration: Fast & Furious, green energy crony capitalism, Benghazi, and Obamacare (she reports on the website fiasco). Attkisson reported on each of these scandals and devotes a chapter to her work on each one.

• Each chapter combines Attkisson’s reporting with her experiences working on the story against the forces of the Obama administration. The book is thus part memoir and part reportage. It inevitably recalls All the President’s Men and the work of Woodward and Bernstein on Watergate. Attkisson’s book lacks the unity of All the President’s Men but is a more trustworthy and useful source.

• On a well founded tip from a knowledgeable source, we straightforwardly sought information from the White House press office about the hacking of the computer system maintained by the Executive Office of the President. I took it somewhat personally when the White House failed to respond to my phone calls and email messages and then leaked the story to a friendly news outlet. Attkisson’s book shows me that I shouldn’t have taken it personally; this is how “the most transparent administration in history” rolls.

• I forgot to mention that Attkisson was one of the most distinguished investigative journalists in television news. During the course of her 20-year career with CBS News, she received numerous awards for her work including multiple Emmys and the Edward R. Murrow Award. She encountered a higher degree of difficulty practicing her profession at CBS News during the Age of Obama than at any other time. As the subtitle of her book has it, she ran up against “obstruction, intimidation, and harassment in Obama’s Washington.” “Obama’s Washington” is a euphemism for the Obama administration. She relates experiences and names names in the book.

• Having read the book carefully, I have absolutely no idea what Attkisson’s politics are. She seems to me something like the Platonic ideal of a reporter; she is the soul of fairness. Attkisson introduces a trope she calls the Substitution Game. Conservatives play it all the time. She asks herself, how would this practice look if the subject were a Republican? This is a trope that does not go over well at CBS News in “Obama’s Washington” or the Age of Obama. Among other things, CBS News president David Rhodes is the brother of Obama national security adviser Ben Rhodes. Attkisson’s difficulties practicing her profession were enhanced by the tilt within CBS News. She makes it clear that CBS News has become a public relations arm of the Obama administration.

• The New York Times and the mainstream media haven’t reviewed Stonewalled. The memoir by former CBS News producer Mary Mapes, the absurdly titled Truth and Duty, was an insane piece of garbage, but it was the subject of a featured review in the New York Times Book Review.

• However, the conservative press hasn’t found room for the book either. Attkisson’s book has not been reviewed in either National Review or the Weekly Standard. NRO posted a 10-minute interview with Attkisson conducted by John Miller here, but John really didn’t explore the book.

• By contrast, with virtually infinite time and space to fill, C-SPAN has done a terrific job with the book. Nia-Malika Henderson spent an hour with Attkisson on the book for an installment of After Words; the interview is posted here. Attkisson also spent an hour taking calls on one of the C-SPAN morning shows with Greta Wodele Brawner; that is posted here. Kyle Smith wrote an excellent preview of the book’s highlights in the New York Post here. Ken Allard’s review for the Washington Times captured the book’s excitement.

• I want to leave you with a stray paragraph from the book:

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner was afforded the chance to meet with and spin network news managers off camera. According to those who attended, Geithner pretty much blamed all of the nation’s economic troubles on–the drought. His analysis became a basis for subsequent CBS Evening News story decisions that advanced the drought theory of economic weakness, helpfully pinpointing a factor outside the president’s control and, therefore, one for which he could not be blamed. Naturally, this advanced Obama’s case rather than that of his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.

Coming soon, I hope: part 2.

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