A month back, I noticed the usual back-scratching that goes on when The Washington Post makes a list of the year’s best books, and two of the top five nonfiction books of the year were former Posties.
When the New York Times list came out in mid-December, a similar thing happened: one of their Ten Best Books came from Times reporter Peter Baker, "Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in The White House."
Baker succeeds in telling the story of the several crises of the Bush administration with fairness and balance, which is to say that he is sympathetic to his subjects, acknowledging their accomplishments but excusing none of their errors. Baker, the chief White House correspondent for The Times, is fascinated by the mystery of the Bush-Cheney relationship, and even more so by the mystery of George W. Bush himself. Did Bush lead, or was he led by others? In the end, Baker concludes, the “decider” really did decide.
On its "100 Notable" list for the year, the Times also honored a book by Anita Raghavan, a contributing correspondent to the paper's Dealbook blog, and "This Town" by Mark Leibovich. The Times picked a pile of the same books as the Post: not just Leibovich, but former Posties Rick Atkinson ("The Guns at Last Light") and David Finkel ("Thank You For Your Service"), and Time’s Amanda Ripley (“The Smartest Kids in the World”).
Unlike the Post, the Times skipped over the JFK book by former Timesman Philip Shenon, but they did promote Sasha Abramsky of The Nation laiming "poverty in America is back with a vengeance" -- no need to blame Obama -- and a memoir by Roger Rosenblatt, a former columnist for Time magazine and essayist for The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour on PBS.
Like a good liberal, Rosenblatt in 1999 predicted the impending end of gun rights in America, eroding in the next five to ten years:
"My guess, in fact, is that the hour has come and gone - that the great majority of Americans are saying they favor gun control when they really mean gun banishment...I think the country has long been ready to restrict the use of guns, except for hunting rifles and shotguns, and now I think we're prepared to get rid of the damned things entirely - the handguns, the semis and the automatics...I doubt that it will be 25 years before we're rid of the things. In 10 years, even five, we could be looking back on the past three decades of gun violence in America the way one once looked back upon 18th century madhouses. I think we are already doing so but not saying so." -- Essayist Roger Rosenblatt, August 9, 1999 Time.
And it was the same pitch on PBS:
"Get rid of the guns. We had the Second Amendment that said you have the right to bear arms. I haven’t seen the British really coming by my house looking for it. And besides, the right to bear arms is not an absolute right anyway, as New York’s Sullivan Law proves. We talk about ourselves as a violent society, and some of that is right and some of it is claptrap. But I think if you took away the guns, and I mean really take away the guns, not what Congress is doing now, you would see that violent society diminish considerably." – Rosenblatt on The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour, May 20, 1999.