Friday, May 8, 2015

Matt Bai

Matt Bai's 2014 book, All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, revisits the Gary Hart affair and looks at how it changed forever the intersection of American media and politics.

From the author's Fresh Air interview with Dave Davies:

DAVIES: So you spent a lot of time reviewing the events of 1987 in advance of the '88 presidential campaign - talked to all the players that would talk to you nowadays. So let's go over some of this. Historically before 1987, what were the standards employed by journalists in covering politicians' private lives?

BAI: Well, it's too facile to say private lives were never an issue in politics or in presidential politics. You certainly can't say the character wasn't an issue; we always cared about these things. But by and large, if you're looking at the 20th century politics, let's say, and even going back before then, the personal lives or private or marital transgressions of national candidates became germane to the debate only when they burst out into the open and affected your political standing. So if you look at someone like Nelson Rockefeller, who in the 1960s divorced his wife, married a much younger staffer - it was quite scandalous, particularly in the Republican Party - that affected his standing with Republican voters. It was a political story, and it was covered - Chappaquiddick, of course, we all know, Ted Kennedy's marital troubles, his wife's issues - all of these things were covered in the context of political standing and how it affected your campaign.

What we didn't have were journalists going out and sort of playing detective or private investigator and trying to bring into the public arena what were considered private behaviors that were generally off-limits. So that, you know, in the case of, say, a Franklin Roosevelt, a John Kennedy, a Lyndon Johnson - all of whom we now know were not angels in their private lives by the standards most of us have for our marriages - but not of that was considered news. Even later after it was understood that John Kennedy had not only had extramarital affairs, but associations in terms of the mafia and a mafia mistress that, you know, that were really...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue