Spin Control: The White House Office of Communications and the Management of Presidential News, 2d ed.

Spin Control: The White House Office of Communications and the Management of Presidential News, 2d ed. – book reviews

James W. Welke

JOHN ANTHONY MALTESE, 1994 Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press pp. xii, 323; $15.95 (paper)

John Anthony Maltese, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia, has produced a well-researched and well-written scholarly analysis of the development, functions and operations of presidential communications for most of the last twenty-five years covering six occupants of the White House. The extensive source material that Maltese has collected for this study relies heavily on personal interviews with key individuals in each administration. He also has included material from the files of many of these individuals and appropriate presidential libraries and collections along with extensive ocher published materials. The written documentation does, however, thin out somewhat beginning with the Reagan administration and is thinner yet, as would be expected due to recency, with the Bush and Carter years.

The text begins over fifty years ago, long before the White House Office of Communications was born, as the author briefly surveys the historical development of presidential communication patterns from the World War II Office of War Information through the various ad hoc approaches of other administrations until the establishment of the Office of Communications in the Nixon White House in 1969. The Nixon years are analysed in the most detail probably because chose were the formative years of the Office itself and the years when its influence within an administration were the most pervasive, received the most attention, and were involved in the controversy chat almost ended with an historic impeachment of President Nixon. Two full chapters are devoted to this period. Succeeding chapters are devoted, one each, to the Ford, Carter and Reagan years where the organization and influence of the Office both waxed and waned. The Bush presidency is analysed briefly.

The last chapter has been revised from the “Bush years: postscript” to “The Bush and Clinton years: postscript”. The material on the Bush administration has been rewritten using the same sources as the previous edition. In the new material there are only two significant additions. These are analyses of the 1992 elections which includes material from the Bush, Clinton and Perot campaigns and a very preliminary look at the Clinton White House communications structure and activity from George Stephanopoulos through and ending with David Gergen as Counselor to the President (probably ending August 1993). The author appropriately supports his treatment with a large number of new primary and secondary research sources.

The appendix, showing by organizational charts the structure and jurisdiction of the Office of Communication, begins January 1969 with the first Director in the Nixon administration, Herbert G. Klein, and concludes with one new chart dated July 1993 from the Clinton administration with Mark D. Gearan as Director of the Office supervised by David Gergen, Counselor to the President.

The additions to this volume, as opposed to the 1992 edition, are minimal. There are many reasons for publishing a new or revised edition of an important scholarly work. Given what many view as the unhappy circumstances of the start-up years of the Clinton presidency, the latter reason is plausible when the reader notes the actual differences between the first and second edition of this book. As a substantial revised scholarly contribution to the literature, it would have been better to wait until after the end of the Clinton administration’s first term of office … or second.

COPYRIGHT 1995 Carfax Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group