Truth to Tell : Tell It Early, Tell It All, Tell It Yourself: Notes from My White House Education
On a November afternoon in 1996, Lanny Davis got a phone call that would change his life. It was from a top aide at the White House, asking him if he was interested in joining the president's senior staff. Within a few short weeks he had signed on as special counsel to the president. Fourteen months later, his tour of duty almost over, he got another phone call, this time from a Washington Post reporter who asked, "Have you ever heard the name Monica Lewinsky?" In the time between those two phone calls, Davis received an extraordinary political education. As President Bill Clinton's chief spokesman for handling "scandal matters" he had the unenviable job of briefing reporters and answering their pointed questions on the most embarrassing allegations against the president and his aides, from charges of renting out the Lincoln Bedroom, to stories of selling plots in Arlington Cemetery, from irregular campaign fundraising to sexual improprieties. He was the White House's first line of defense against the press corps and the reporters' first point of entry to an increasingly reticent administration. His delicate task was to remain credible to both sides while surviving the inevitable crossfire. Upon entering the White House, Davis discovered that he was never going to be able to turn bad news into good news, but he could place the bad news in its proper context and work with reporters to present a fuller picture. While some in the White House grew increasingly leery of helping a press corps that they regarded as hostile, Davis moved in the opposite direction, pitching unfavorable stories to reporters and helping them garner the facts to write those stories accurately. Most surprisingly of all, he realized that to do his job properly, he sometimes had to turn himself into a reporter within the White House, interviewing his colleagues and ferreting out information. Along the way, he learned the true lessons of why politicians, lawyers, and reporters so often act at cross-purposes and gained some remarkable and counterintuitive insights into why this need not be the case. Searching out the facts wherever he could find them, even if he had to proceed covertly, Davis discovered that he could simultaneously help the reporters do their jobs and not put the president in legal or political jeopardy. With refreshing candor, Davis admits his own mistakes and reveals those instances where he dug a deeper hole for himself by denying the obvious and obfuscating the truth. And in a powerful reassessment of the scandal that led to the president's impeachment, Davis suggests that if the White House had been more receptive to these same hard-won lessons, the Monica Lewinsky story might not have come so close to bringing down an otherwise popular president. For as Davis learned above all, you can always make a bad story better by telling it early, telling it all, and telling it yourself.
- Electronic book text
- 06 Aug 1999
- SIMON & SCHUSTER
- The Free Press
- United States
About Lanny J. Davis
Lanny J. Davis was special counsel to President Clinton from December 1996 through January 1998. He has written numerous articles for USA TODAY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and THE WALL STREET TIMES. He is a partner at the Washington D.C. law firm Patton Boggs, specialising in litigation and strategic crisis management.
Carl Bernstein coauthor of "All the President's Men" On the air and now in print, Lanny Davis has managed the considerable feat of serving all his constituents extremely well: President, Press and Public. This is a very thoughtful book. Gail Sheehy author of "Passages" and "Understanding Men's Passages" Lanny Davis has written an extraordinarily candid account of his time as the president's chief scandal scooper. We follow him as he argues for full and fair disclosure in the face of opposition from those White House operatives who hoped it would all just go away. Even better, it reads like a terrific thriller with a twist ending. Tom Brokaw NBC News, author of "The Greatest Generation" Lanny Davis has written a book that should be required reading for all Washington officials and journalists alike. It's an instructive and cautionary tale of the constant struggle to know the truth of what is going on at the highest levels of government.