I was annoyed to see that the New York Times assigned Ana Marie Cox to review Ari Fleischer's book, and more annoyed when she didn't bother to assess any of his substantive claims other than to dismiss the examples he cites as obviously "cherry-picked." But her conclusion is apt:
[Fleischer's] inaccuracies, however, pale next to his greater sin: this book is boring. That Fleischer can be so infuriating and so dull at the same time is his greatest accomplishment...
Even when no secrets are at stake, his behind-the-scene anecdotes have the consistency of processed cheese and just as much flavor. His stiffness as a storyteller and his tin ear for detail have made his book tour as weirdly fascinating as his book is toneless. News outlets, eager for some of the zippy repartee Fleischer gave from the podium, have been flummoxed by the dry character they're faced with now. On CNN, Fleischer's answers were so content-free that Lou Dobbs wanted to know if Fleischer was still drawing a White House paycheck.
Journalists who actually worked with Fleischer are not surprised by his blankness. Fleischer wasn't at the podium to help create a narrative, he was there to keep reporters from creating one any different from what the White House was already selling. Other administrations have tried to use the press to get a message across. The Bush administration's disdain for the press -- right down to Fleischer's theatrical, pointlessly bitter briefings -- is their message.