The New York Times is known for its scrupulous approach to assigning book reviews, frequently disqualifying reviewers who have even the most tenuous personal or professional links to a book's author or authors. It was surprising, then, when the Times assigned Neil Lewis, a well-regarded political reporter at the paper's D.C. bureau, to review Joe Conason and Gene Lyons's The Hunting of the President: The Ten Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The problem is that a running theme of The Hunting of the President is the unprofessionalism of the national press, including and especially the Times, during the Clinton years. The book is particularly critical of reporters' constant distortion and exaggeration of evidence in eager pursuit of a latter-day Watergate, and many newspapers' ongoing reluctance to admit or retract substantial errors of fact. Lewis's own reporting--he has occasionally filed on Whitewater--comes under criticism not just in The Hunting of the President, but also in an earlier book by Lyons.
Not to be outdone, The Washington Post assigned James Bowman to review The Hunting of the President. Who is Bowman? Film critic of The American Spectator, a periodical whose quasi-journalistic endeavors as chief organ of the right-wing fringe made it central not just to the anti-Clinton jihad, but also to The Hunting of the President itself. Did somebody say conspiracy?
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