Booklist Reviews 2020 July #1
From the beginning of the U.S. presidency the holder of that office and the press have been at loggerheads, leading to complaints about unfair press coverage, attempts to circumvent the press and go straight to the voters, and battles to keep private life private. Drawing on his experience as a reporter and political press secretary, Holzer argues that while the dynamics between the president and the press have not changed, the technologies involved are enormously different. In this chronology of tensions, Holzer begins with the founding era when both the president and the press began to forge their roles, through the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Vietnam war, and beyond, highlighting the conflicts of George Washington,Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, both George H.W. and George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Holzer examines how personality and the prevailing issues and technology of their presidencies shaped press relationships. While this fascinating book doesn't ease the pain and anxiety of witnessing the elevated battle between Trump and reporters, it does provide an essential historical perspective. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2019 December
Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, Holzer clarifies today's fake news issue by showing that it is nothing new, from Washington's complaints about how reporters treated him to Nixon's calling the press a public enemy.
Copyright 2019 Library Journal.
LJ Reviews 2020 May
In this sweeping survey, Holzer (Lincoln and the Power of the Press) examines the often-contentious relationship of 19 presidents with the press, including Abraham Lincoln's censorship of news during the Civil War and Richard Nixon's hostility toward reporters. Holzer devotes two fascinating chapters to Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom he calls "an instinctive public relations wizard." The press embraced Theodore Roosevelt, but found Woodrow Wilson to be "cold and remote." John F. Kennedy was charming, but also manipulative. Bill Clinton was unprepared for the Washington press corps, and became the first victim of cable news. The chapters on George W. Bush and Barack Obama illustrate how both presidents squandered initial good will from the press. Holzer ends with Donald Trump's persistent attacks on individual reporters, the constant charge of "fake news," and his relationship with Fox News. The author also offers a whirlwind history of the United States, discussing the triumphs and failures of each president who is profiled in the book, and addressing the changes in newspaper publishing in the 19th century as well as the impact of radio, television, and the Internet. VERDICT This is a lively and informative work that will appeal to anyone interested in American history, politics, and journalism.—Thomas Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA
Copyright 2020 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2020 March #5
Historian Holzer (Monument Man) documents the tensions between U.S. presidents and the press in this colorful but underwhelming survey. Starting with George Washington and his fellow founding fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, then skipping ahead to Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt, before concluding with a rundown of every modern president from Kennedy through Trump, Holzer aims to "alert readers to historical traditions, original principles, and ominous trends." He describes Washington's battles with the journalist grandson of Benjamin Franklin; cites examples of FDR's "manipulative charm" during press briefings, including the time he told a reporter inquiring about a potential third term to "put on your dunce cap and stand with your back to the crowd"; and notes Obama's controversial use of the 1917 Espionage Act to jail reporters' sources and stem the tide of intelligence community leaks. Evidence of Trump's love-hate relationship with the press includes extensive TV coverage of his 2016 campaign rallies and the president's "tweetstorms" attacking mainstream media as allegations of the Ukraine pressure campaign circulated. Holzer provides vivid historical vignettes, but little analysis of how the current moment compares to 18th- and 19th-century precedents. Readers will be more entertained than enlightened. (May)
Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.