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Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House

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The early years of the twenty-first century were a tumultuous time in America. The country faced a hotly contested presidential election, the largest terrorist attack in the nation's history, and the early stages of war. Through it all, President George W. Bush surrounded himself with a handful of close advisers. During this time the man beside the President was Ari Fleisc The early years of the twenty-first century were a tumultuous time in America. The country faced a hotly contested presidential election, the largest terrorist attack in the nation's history, and the early stages of war. Through it all, President George W. Bush surrounded himself with a handful of close advisers. During this time the man beside the President was Ari Fleischer, his press secretary and one of his most trusted confidants. In this role, Fleisher was present for every decision and became an eyewitness to history. In this riveting account, Fleischer goes behind the scenes as he recalls his experiences in the West Wing. Through the ups and downs of this time, he took the heat, fielded the questions, and brought the President's message into living rooms around the world. In Taking Heat, Fleischer, for the first time, gives his perspective on: *The 2000 election, from the recounts to the transition to power *September 11, 2001, its aftermath, and the anthrax scare *The pressure-filled buildup to the war in Iraq and the President's thoughts as the war began *Life in the White House, from learning to adjust to the pace of the West Wing and his early briefings to his relationship with the press *The White House press corps, who they are, and how they report the news *The factors that led to his decision to leave Washington behind. This is the story of the men and women of the White House press corps and the cornerstones of democracy: freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. Fleischer presents an in-depth, insider's view on the Washington political arena from a perspective few have seen. Fleischer writes of his belief that the press has a bias in Washington. It's not a question of partisanship or press-driven ideology. Instead, it's a focus on conflict, particularly if it's a conflict they can attach to the President. It's the nature of the White House press corps, regardless of who's in power. The members of the White House press corps are masters at being devil's advocate, able to take with passion the opposite side of whatever issue the President supports. Fleischer's job was to calmly field their questions, no matter how pointed. Taking Heat is an introspective exploration of the top political events in the first half of the Bush administration, as well as the candid observations of a professional who stood in the bright lights of the world stage.


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The early years of the twenty-first century were a tumultuous time in America. The country faced a hotly contested presidential election, the largest terrorist attack in the nation's history, and the early stages of war. Through it all, President George W. Bush surrounded himself with a handful of close advisers. During this time the man beside the President was Ari Fleisc The early years of the twenty-first century were a tumultuous time in America. The country faced a hotly contested presidential election, the largest terrorist attack in the nation's history, and the early stages of war. Through it all, President George W. Bush surrounded himself with a handful of close advisers. During this time the man beside the President was Ari Fleischer, his press secretary and one of his most trusted confidants. In this role, Fleisher was present for every decision and became an eyewitness to history. In this riveting account, Fleischer goes behind the scenes as he recalls his experiences in the West Wing. Through the ups and downs of this time, he took the heat, fielded the questions, and brought the President's message into living rooms around the world. In Taking Heat, Fleischer, for the first time, gives his perspective on: *The 2000 election, from the recounts to the transition to power *September 11, 2001, its aftermath, and the anthrax scare *The pressure-filled buildup to the war in Iraq and the President's thoughts as the war began *Life in the White House, from learning to adjust to the pace of the West Wing and his early briefings to his relationship with the press *The White House press corps, who they are, and how they report the news *The factors that led to his decision to leave Washington behind. This is the story of the men and women of the White House press corps and the cornerstones of democracy: freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. Fleischer presents an in-depth, insider's view on the Washington political arena from a perspective few have seen. Fleischer writes of his belief that the press has a bias in Washington. It's not a question of partisanship or press-driven ideology. Instead, it's a focus on conflict, particularly if it's a conflict they can attach to the President. It's the nature of the White House press corps, regardless of who's in power. The members of the White House press corps are masters at being devil's advocate, able to take with passion the opposite side of whatever issue the President supports. Fleischer's job was to calmly field their questions, no matter how pointed. Taking Heat is an introspective exploration of the top political events in the first half of the Bush administration, as well as the candid observations of a professional who stood in the bright lights of the world stage.

30 review for Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Ari provides an interesting book in his autobiography as President Bush's White House Press Secretary. I always hate to review books like this because they are so politically charged and ideologues on either side tend to get in a huff over what you say. I will endeavor to keep this as neutral as possible. This book sets out to accomplish many objectives but only hits half of them. First and foremost it is one of the best looks at the role of the press secretary and the sheer stress the job has o Ari provides an interesting book in his autobiography as President Bush's White House Press Secretary. I always hate to review books like this because they are so politically charged and ideologues on either side tend to get in a huff over what you say. I will endeavor to keep this as neutral as possible. This book sets out to accomplish many objectives but only hits half of them. First and foremost it is one of the best looks at the role of the press secretary and the sheer stress the job has on a person. Whether you like or hate President Bush there is no one who can deny that the role of press secretary is a hard job especially under a tight lipped and secretive white House. Andy Card's goal as chief of staff was to keep leaks to a minimum which frustrates the press leaving their only source of information the press secretary. When the press secretary is instructed not to discuss military matters it becomes even more adversarial. One of the interesting things learned from the book is what viewpoint the Press Secretary is supposed to have. I found it fascinating that he is only there to represent the views of the president and that does not necessarily have to be the wishes of the branches of government that report to the president. One of the other objectives was to provide a critical narrative of the press and give insight into the White House Press Crops. I found his look at the White House Press fascinating and he really does put you inside the room of the toughest reporters in the United States. He illustrates well his points about the adversarial nature of the press and the desire of the press to create conflict which leads to stories. Many times the same questions are asked over and over hoping for a slip that the Press Secretary cannot afford to give. One of the angles that I think he does handle poorly is the bias of the press. While there are voluminous studies to show that the press is slanted right Ari seems to not acknowledge that all media is biased in one direction or another. The White House press does not give passes to any president. People today do not trust the news they get from the press and rightly so due to the biases that are present be they Fox News or MSNBC. While he highlights the point of on the liberal media it is done far better by Benard Goldberg in his book Bias. Finally Ari tries to make a defense of President Bush and his policies/leadership style. Some of his book seems to be aimed at knocking down the arguments in the Price of Loyalty. While this is another viewpoint again the truth probably lies in the middle. Some of his defenses of trying to shift blame to the press for starting up the Iraq war are fairly ludicrous. Ari does not sit in on any of the national security briefings and the president preferred himself to comment on those matters leaving Ari in a hard position to comment on them after the fact. One of the things he does refute well that many agree with is the loyalty that Bush shows to those who are loyal to him. There is a clear look that Bush's leadership style does work within his White House and he is respected by the staff. Ari also seems to take it upon himself to set the record straight and show the country that Bush did not think of the war in Iraq in a vacuum that many other people including the press also had the same idea along the way. He is largely successful in this although he glosses over one of the critical mistakes. The landing on the USS Lincoln with the banner Mission Accomplished was one of the great errors in the press of fighting the war and it is skipped over here. I think Ari is right in saying that the press views any war that is long as a quagmire and Vietnam and any war where we win quickly is Desert Storm and must be over in a week. There is a lack of reality by the press which filters to the country. Overall an excellent book and very well done. Ari provides unique insight into the Bush White House and while it is biased it does not make it useless. He raises critical questions that require issues to be reexamined and while he is loathe to criticize his former boss for the things he did wrong we still see a good look at Bush the man and the President.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Fleischer was George W. Bush's Press Secretary from 2001 through 2003, facing the White House press daily through some of the most tumultuous times in American history including the aftermath of the bitterly contested 2000 election and of course September 11. This memoir of the time, which could have been a quickly-assembled hack job, is instead thoughtful and interesting. Fleischer provides just enough personal information to frame his story (New York city kid who grew up liberal in a family of Fleischer was George W. Bush's Press Secretary from 2001 through 2003, facing the White House press daily through some of the most tumultuous times in American history including the aftermath of the bitterly contested 2000 election and of course September 11. This memoir of the time, which could have been a quickly-assembled hack job, is instead thoughtful and interesting. Fleischer provides just enough personal information to frame his story (New York city kid who grew up liberal in a family of Democrats), spending more time describing the more important and interesting interplay between White House staff and the press. Fleischer's key points about the press are that it is --conflict based (its not news if it doesn't involve conflict) --deadline driven (at the cost of fact-checking and completeness) --homogeneously hampered (almost exclusively produced and controlled by liberal and Democratic writers and editors). He backs his ideas up with examples, including some he used from the press briefing floor in daily combat with the press. With those caveats, Fleischer expresses his respect and admiration for the press honestly and without rancor or reservation. Likewise he describes his admiration for Bush and his policies, words which have more impact in the light of the intervening years of Bush bashing that has become universal in the press and among liberals and Democrats, and even amongst a fair number of former Bush supporters in his own party.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Fleischer's book is part memoir and part media critique. The behind the scenes stories of the early part of George W. Bush's presidency are interesting and give a good view at how the man made decisions. The media critique shows how subtle word choice and the picking of stories are influenced by the ideological leanings of the reporters even if the don't realize it. Far from the screaming we hear about "fake news", this is actually a useful guide to consuming news.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I finally read this book after it sat on my shelf for over a decade. Interesting insight to 911 aftermath and the obsession President Bush and the neocons in his administration had on nation building and invading Iraq.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Don

    Though clearly and unavoidably biased, this was an interesting firsthand look at the early years of the Bush administration. It’s a fairly quick and enjoyable read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Took me a long time to plow through this, I found it interesting but sheesh, enough is enough sometimes. I would probably go for a two and a half star rating if I could. I finished it. There were some interesting bits (the chapter on Helen Thomas makes for interesting reading in light of recent of events). And he makes a good case for a liberally biased media, something I had personally observed years ago while, of all things, processing magazines for the library during the Clinton/Bush Sr. elec Took me a long time to plow through this, I found it interesting but sheesh, enough is enough sometimes. I would probably go for a two and a half star rating if I could. I finished it. There were some interesting bits (the chapter on Helen Thomas makes for interesting reading in light of recent of events). And he makes a good case for a liberally biased media, something I had personally observed years ago while, of all things, processing magazines for the library during the Clinton/Bush Sr. election. When you handle magazines week after week you begin to notice things: all the "womens" magazines always have three or four things on the cover besides a celebrity(skinny and airbrushed) and thy are as follows, an article about diet and exercise, a recipe for something really decadent and tasty sounding (frequently with a photo, depending on the magazine type) and something about sex. Also, quite frequently something about organization, time management and or budget slashing. Check it, I know I'm right. And during the Clinton/Bush/Whathizname- independent-guy election year I noticed that all the big name news magazines ran pictures of Clinton and Gore that were well and flatteringly lit, making them look very young, vital and downright heroic. Bush was always on the cover looking tired, in bad light or in with his mouth open in midword, very unflattering pictures. Perot always looked a little crazy or sneaky. I swear, it was that way week after week, so I was interested in what Fleischer had to say about the media and he makes some valid points but, please, not at such length. I mean, for Pete's sake, he backs up his claims with statistics on how many questions he was asked about certain events and how often certain phrases such as liberal verses right wing were used by the press. And I gotta wonder with Ari about words such as activist verses protester and what slant we assign to words. I think words are important and I was always taught, back in my youthful jr. high and high school journalistic days that the press should be objective, as neutral as possible, except on the editorial page. And it seems to me them days are gone. Fleischer attributes this, correctly I think, to the 24/7 news world we live in, the pressure created by that environment to report right now, figure out if it's correct later, driving reporters to look for and even create conflict to have something to report right now because there is no waiting for the six o'clock news, we gotta roll now. I always enjoyed watching Ari Fleischer fence with the press corps and he seemed like a stand up guy who was walking a fine line (can you say stressful job?), and it's always important to remember who the press secretary works for but I credit the guy with reminding us that the free press, regardless of their or our own political leanings, help keep us living in a free nation.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Clint

    Fleischer, first press secretary to President George W.Bush, describes his 2 1-2 years on the job, plus the prior months he was a spokesman for the candidate. Fleischer, who left the office not long after the beginning of the Iraq war, has warm things to say about Bush and admiration for the day-in, day-out job of the White House press. But he also has a load of insightful things to say about the bias of the press, its lack of balance and the lack of balance of those who teach those who become m Fleischer, first press secretary to President George W.Bush, describes his 2 1-2 years on the job, plus the prior months he was a spokesman for the candidate. Fleischer, who left the office not long after the beginning of the Iraq war, has warm things to say about Bush and admiration for the day-in, day-out job of the White House press. But he also has a load of insightful things to say about the bias of the press, its lack of balance and the lack of balance of those who teach those who become members of the press. Naturally, critics dismissed Fleischer's book because it criticized the very imbalance in place, but here we are nearly 15 years from Fleischer service, and the imbalance of the press still exists and now has become front and center with the first president willing to call out such bias.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    I can think of better ways to spend my working hours, but ya gotta read what you're assigned. I found what he had to say about the nitpicking need for conflict in the press interesting, and I believe that his complaints about the "liberal bias" in the media SOMEWHAT justified--though a lot of times he just seemed to be whining. It was hard relieving the events of September 11 and the lead-up to the war with Iraq and the war itself through Republican eyes. It just further cemented my belief that we I can think of better ways to spend my working hours, but ya gotta read what you're assigned. I found what he had to say about the nitpicking need for conflict in the press interesting, and I believe that his complaints about the "liberal bias" in the media SOMEWHAT justified--though a lot of times he just seemed to be whining. It was hard relieving the events of September 11 and the lead-up to the war with Iraq and the war itself through Republican eyes. It just further cemented my belief that we really do see the world through different lenses. The thing that was hardest to believe, though, is his constant portrayal of W. as a strong, confident, and COMPETENT leader. This portrayal runs totally counter to what we've heard from other insiders (Paul O'Neill, for example) and to what we all know about the W. administration to date. I wonder how this book would've been different if Fleischer had written it after Katrina or if he wrote it now.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    Ari Fleischer should take a bow for having to deal with both sides...the White House and the media. It's a thankless job and you are always in hot water. I thought this was a good book. Not a great book. There were no major revelations and he slammed the media for being too liberal but overall, it was a book that is worth reading. It was interesting to read his first hand account of Sept. 11th and the lead up to both wars. Of course, he defends the reasoning behind most events but it was still i Ari Fleischer should take a bow for having to deal with both sides...the White House and the media. It's a thankless job and you are always in hot water. I thought this was a good book. Not a great book. There were no major revelations and he slammed the media for being too liberal but overall, it was a book that is worth reading. It was interesting to read his first hand account of Sept. 11th and the lead up to both wars. Of course, he defends the reasoning behind most events but it was still interesting to hear why he believed that way. He talks about how he may know something but can't tell. However, what I found most fascinating is how much he didn't know because the Bush White House was afraid he would tell the press or they didn't want his views. Overall, it's worth buying the bargain book price book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jerry

    Ari Fleischer’s memoir takes place from the Bush transition in 2000, through September 11, to July 14, 2003. He talks about being the Press Secretary, and not about the campaign. It pretty much starts with “I’d like you to be my press secretary when I win,” the day of the election. Fleischer began life as a Democrat, but changed because of the way Democrats began to treat being an American in the seventies: I didn’t think America should feel guilty about its role in the world. It seemed to me that Ari Fleischer’s memoir takes place from the Bush transition in 2000, through September 11, to July 14, 2003. He talks about being the Press Secretary, and not about the campaign. It pretty much starts with “I’d like you to be my press secretary when I win,” the day of the election. Fleischer began life as a Democrat, but changed because of the way Democrats began to treat being an American in the seventies: I didn’t think America should feel guilty about its role in the world. It seemed to me that our government was unnecessarily apologizing for events around the world. This is a very interesting look at the biases of the top echelons of the media, from a pre-2008 perspective.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Gives an interesting new perspective on the operations of the press and the rise of the 24 hour news stations as well as a few brief glimpses of the president off-camera. Somewhat repetitive, Ari makes some good points and does a lot of complaining. Not all of his complaints are justified nor is the full story given by him either, most notably his complaint that the press wouldn't cover the fact that Bush was cheered at some of his speeches and that the press would only cover the event if he had g Gives an interesting new perspective on the operations of the press and the rise of the 24 hour news stations as well as a few brief glimpses of the president off-camera. Somewhat repetitive, Ari makes some good points and does a lot of complaining. Not all of his complaints are justified nor is the full story given by him either, most notably his complaint that the press wouldn't cover the fact that Bush was cheered at some of his speeches and that the press would only cover the event if he had gotten boo'ed. What Ari fails to mention here is that the audiences of Bush's speeches were carefully screened to admit only people who agreed with and supported the President, so what else were they going to do but cheer?

  12. 4 out of 5

    pk

    Fleischer spent the majority of the pages time complaining about the liberal media and how tough his job was as opposed to providing any real insight into his role in the Bush adminsitration or what it was like to be press secretary to the President of the United States. In all honesty, I felt this book was a waste of time filled with the same spin and rhetoric as he spewed from the podium. "What Happened" by Scott McClellan was much better.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Doris

    This was a good fill for a long drive. I thought that overall it was well put together, and gave great insight into the heads of today's leaders. I did have to agree that there is a definite bias in the press - it becomes obvious when all you see if the bad news reported and different "news" stations vying to see who can report the next negative thing. But - it gave me a good insight into the DC scene, and that is invaluable, so it was worth the time.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Very, very pro-Bush in his support of the President during the time he was the White House Press Secretary. Fleischer is respectful, but extremely critical of the Whte House press corps, the democratic "slant" of their news coverage, and the methods they employ to "ambush" Fleischer into saying too much. Nevertheless, an interesting read despite the political bias.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dionne

    Ari Fleischer and Tony Snow are my 2 favorite Presidential Spokesmen. Fleischer did his job very well. I enjoyed hearing his perspective on Bush and his administration and what the job of press secretary was like.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dwayne Smith

    Interesting read. It really showed the left-winged bias the press has and how inconsistent they really are. I did appreciate how he didn't sugar coat the Iraq war and why no WMDs were found. He did show a great deal of loyalty to Bush 43.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melynda Burt

    I'm totally amazed at the White House Press Corps. Being the White House Spokesperson would be the roughest, toughest job I can imagine. Fleischer was amazing at taking control of the seat as well as the ravenous press. I LOVED this read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cate

    Fascinating inside view of the early GWB White House. Fleischer is thoughtful and competent--he's not a hack. Nice to balance out the completely out-of-control Bush-hating mainstream media reporting in order to get at true picture of how things operated during the Bush administration.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Pretty interesting. I love getting an inside glimpse of things.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Patrick

    An insightful view into how a Presidential Cabinet is selected and how a Press Secretary must navigate rather difficult waters in his daily life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Em Ormiston

    I did a thesis in my MLA program and pulled a great amount of information from this resource. Good stuff.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Just because you had a prominent role in the White House does not mean you should write a book about your experiences. This just isn't that interesting.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I adored Ari Fleischer. After I read this book, I adored him more.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    A peak into the Bush White House by one of the world's greatest liars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Bufkin

  26. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

  27. 5 out of 5

    5wireman

  28. 4 out of 5

    Charles

  29. 5 out of 5

    Justin

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elise

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