Spinner in Chief: How Presidents Sell Their Policies and Themselves, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Spinner in Chief

How Presidents Sell Their Policies and Themselves, 1st Edition

By Stephen J. Farnsworth


200 pages

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pub: 2008-09-30
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As the U.S. enters the last lap of the 2008 presidential election season, the media and the candidates are in full gear exploiting each other, often at the expense of public information and awareness. This book looks at how presidents and presidential candidates use television, the Internet, and newspapers to promote their policies and themselves, even as they are sometimes manipulated by the media they so avidly seek. Looking at White House media strategies relating to the Iraq War and occupation, health care reform, tax and budget debates, the debate over Bush's competence, the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal, and the early battles of the 2008 presidential election, media scholar and former journalist Stephen Farnsworth examines how presidents shift the direction and limit the amount of public debate over policies to favor themselves-and how reporters and Internet commentators often help them do so. The result short-circuits the public's role in evaluating competing visions for the country's future and the legislative branch's role in policy making. The modern presidential obsession with public relations-and media willingness to be used to advance executive power-undermine the country's long term ability to deal with crucial problems, including foreign and military relations, a growing government debt, and public health care shortcomings.


“This meticulous George Mason University Professor fills his pages with engrossing examples of how Presidents and presidential candidates market themselves with a media willing to be used to further executive power, the concentration of which drains the public dialogue and debate through weapons of mass distraction.”

—Ralph Nader

“This brief, excellent book is a comprehensive examination of how American presidents sell themselves and their policies . . . a useful summary of the role of the president in managing his message. Recommended."


“Whew! The presidential spin cycle can leave anybody reeling and trying to separate White House fact from fiction. But a fine scholar, Steve Farnsworth, has come to our rescue. He shows us what presidents say, and why they say it. Farnsworth’s book is consumer protection for citizens—and a lively, well-written delight for students.”

—Dr. Larry J. Sabato, Author of A More Perfect Constitution: Ideas to Inspire a New Generation and Director of the Center for Politics, University of Virginia

“Packed with examples and data, Spinner in Chief takes the reader into the heart of the White House’s efforts to market itself and raises important questions about the consequences of those endeavors.”

—George C. Edwards III, Texas A&M University

“Few writers have dissected presidential communication as deftly as Stephen Farnsworth does in Spinner in Chief. Through riveting cases and persuasive evidence and argument, Farnsworth provides one of the best assessments yet of how, and how fully, presidents control the nation's political agenda. His findings are sobering.”

—Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press, Harvard University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 1 The Many Channels of Presidential Spin 2 Spinning Congress and the Rest of the Government: Persuasion (or Not) along Pennsylvania Avenue 3 Presidents and Citizens: Spinning for Public Approval 4 Modern Media Channels: Presidents and Presidential Candidates Spin the New Media 5 The Consequences of Presidential Spin Counterspin Cookbook References Index About the Author

About the Series

Media and Power

Media and Power is a series that publishes work uniting media studies with studies of power.

This innovative and original series features books that challenge, even transcend, conventional disciplinary boundaries, construing both media and power in the broadest possible terms. At the same time, books in the series are designed to fit into several different types of college courses in political science, public policy, communication, journalism, media, history, film, sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies.

Intended for the scholarly, text, and trade markets, the series should attract authors and inspire and provoke readers.

Learn more…

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