Holzer provides an immensely informative account of the perennial struggle between presidents and the Fourth Estate, from Washington to Donald Trump ... Judicious and nonpartisan, Holzer covers a lot of ground.
... a lively, deeply researched history of the roller-coaster relationships between presidents and journalists, from George Washington to Donald Trump ... Holzer recounts all this and much more in considerable colorful detail. He brings to life the loquacious Teddy Roosevelt’s punishment of reporters who broke his off-the-record rules, FDR’s adept use of frequent news conferences and occasional radio 'fireside chats,' and JFK’s mastery of television ... But too often, [Holzer] portrays the tension between post-Watergate presidents and the press as primarily a petty contest of wills...This distorts the post-Watergate role of investigative reporting in holding accountable presidents and most other powerful people and institutions in American society ... In his chapter on George W. Bush, Holzer focuses on the often-petty news management struggles between Bush’s press secretaries and the White House press corps. Holzer largely ignores the much more important accountability journalism issues over the administration’s fallacious justifications for the Iraq War, its bungled postwar occupation of Iraq, and its secret detention and torture of terrorism suspects after the 9/11 attacks ... He chronicles the chaos of Trump’s war with the media without a clear perspective about what it could mean for the future of presidential relations with journalists or the larger role of an American free press. Holzer strangely equates 'the rogue belligerence of an independent media' with the 'jarring bellicosity of a headstrong president,' as though accountability journalism is somehow 'rogue belligerence' and Trump’s attacks are not aimed at the very existence of press freedom ... As Holzer concludes at the end of his engaging and enlightening book, however, 'The Trump era may usher in a permanent upheaval in which Americans never again agree on basic information or trust in traditional sources of news.' That would be a threat to our democracy.
Holzer’s fat volume gives us a panoramic survey of the most contentious president-on-press brawls from the past two and a quarter centuries, providing both the scholar and the general reader with valuable perspective on the current bout between Trump and reporters ... Holzer focuses on 18 of the 45 presidents and avoids taking sides, although I must say I’ve rarely seen President Bill Clinton so sympathetically portrayed ... Holzer’s best chapters are the ones on Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.