Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency

Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency

by David Greenberg
Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency

Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency

by David Greenberg


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The most powerful political tool of the modern presidency is control of the message and the image.

In Republic of Spin—a vibrant history covering more than one hundred years of politics—presidential historian David Greenberg recounts the rise of the White House spin machine, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama. His sweeping, startling narrative takes us behind the scenes to see how the tools and techniques of image making and message craft work. We meet Woodrow Wilson convening the first White House press conference, Franklin Roosevelt huddling with his private pollsters, Ronald Reagan’s aides crafting his nightly news sound bites, and George W. Bush staging his “Mission Accomplished” photo-op. We meet, too, the backstage visionaries who pioneered new ways of gauging public opinion and mastering the media—figures like George Cortelyou, TR’s brilliantly efficient press manager; 1920s ad whiz Bruce Barton; Robert Montgomery, Dwight Eisenhower’s canny TV coach; and of course the key spinmeisters of our own times, from Roger Ailes to David Axelrod.

Greenberg also examines the profound debates Americans have waged over the effect of spin on our politics. Does spin help our leaders manipulate the citizenry? Or does it allow them to engage us more fully in the democratic project? Exploring the ideas of the century’s most incisive political critics, from Walter Lippmann and H. L. Mencken to Hannah Arendt and Stephen Colbert, Republic of Spin illuminates both the power of spin and its limitations—its capacity not only to mislead but also to lead.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393067064
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 01/11/2016
Pages: 560
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

David Greenberg is a historian of American politics and a professor of history and of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University. He is the author of the prize-winning Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image, among other books. Currently a columnist for Politico, he has been an editor at Slate and the New Republic and has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other popular and scholarly publications. He lives with his family in New York City.

Table of Contents

Cast of Characters xiii

Introduction: A World of Spin 1

Part I The Age of Publicity 11

1 Theodore Roosevelt and the Public Presidency 13

2 William McKinley and the Passing of the Old Order 24

3 The Rise of Public Opinion 35

4 "The Fair-Haired" 45

5 Muckraking and Its Critics 51

6 The Passion of Upton Sinclair 59

7 The Dawn of Public Relations 67

8 Wilson Speaks 78

9 Pitiless Publicity 87

10 The Press Agents' War 95

11 The Journey of George Creel 106

12 Disillusionment 118

Part II The Age of Ballyhoo 127

13 Return to Normalcy 129

14 Walter Lippmann and the Problem of the Majority 138

15 The Likes and Dislikes of H. L. Mencken 145

16 Bruce Barton and the Soul of the 1920s 151

17 "Silent Cal" 161

18 The Overt Acts of Edward Bernays 167

19 Master of Emergencies 176

Part III The Age of Communication 187

20 Tuned to Roosevelt 189

21 Nazism and Propaganda 199

22 The Dark Side of Radio 206

23 Campaigns, Inc. 214

24 The Wizard of Washington 223

25 The Road to War 230

26 The Facts and Figures of Archibald MacLeish 238

27 Propaganda and the "Good War" 243

Part IV The Age of News Management 251

28 The Underestimation of Harry Truman 253

29 George Gallup's Democracy 260

30 Psychological Warfare 270

31 Eisenhower Answers America 276

32 Salesmanship and Secrecy 286

33 The TV President 294

34 "Atoms for Peace" 301

35 Vance Packard and the Anxiety of Persuasion 308

Part V The Age of Image Making 317

36 The Unmaking of Presidential Mystique 319

37 The Great Debates 327

38 The Politics of Image 334

39 The Kennedy Moment 340

40 News Management in Camelot 347

41 Crisis 355

42 "Let Us Continue" 364

43 The Credibility Gap 374

44 The New Politics 384

Part VI The Age of Spin 395

45 The Permanent Campaign Arrives 397

46 The Reagan Apotheosis 408

47 Spinning Out of Control 416

48 George W. Bush and the "Truthiness" Problem 427

49 Barack Obama and the Spin of No Spin 437

Acknowledgments 449

Notes 453

Image Credits 509

Index 511

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