Newsweek's Partisan Arts Honors: Best to Bill Clinton, Reno, Worst to Lynne Cheney

In their September 3 editions, both Time and Newsweek magazines offered a Fall Preview to the new season in books, TV, music, and movies, but only Newsweek turned its art criticism into a crudely partisan exercise. In a "First to Worst" preview, the Newsweek gave its "Last & Least" stink-bomb to the new memoir by Lynne Cheney, "conservative icon (and VP spouse)," for being "Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Dr. Laura," while the magazine lauded Bill Clinton’s new book: "This book-length sermon is all heart." To add insult to injury, Newsweek even gave one of its best-of-autumn honors to a new CD organized by Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno. This is not a 'Saturday Night Live' joke.

On the books page, graced by a photo of Bill Clinton reflecting deeply on a sunny African vista with his hands in his pockets, Mrs. Cheney took a beating:

Last & Least: 'Blue Skies, No Fences,' Lynne Cheney, October: In this upbeat "Memoir of Childhood and Family," conservative icon (and VP spouse) Cheney tells about coming of age during the 1950s, and pays tribute to her pioneer ancestors, who "pinned their hopes on America and kept heading west." Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Dr. Laura.

That seems like quite an indictment from snooty New York-based book critics. It's one thing to be a liberal and dislike Dr. Laura's tough-love radio show, but to go so far as to diss Little House on the Prairie? That's telling most of the country they're yokels for ever reading about the Ingalls clan. But to Newsweek, the height of nonfiction achievement comes from their favorite humble idealist, our last president:

'Giving,' Bill Clinton, September: His ace in the hole as a politician was his ability to sound idealistic without seeming superior. This book is a plea to change the world through giving. His examples range from Bill and Melinda Gates to Dr. Paul Farmer—who started clinics to help the poor in Haiti and lately Rwanda—to a 6-year-old girl in California who organized her community to clean up the local beaches. This time Clinton left the policy-wonk part of his personality at home. This book-length sermon is all heart.

The only other nonfiction honor is the last book by the late liberal author David Halberstam indicting Washington war-makers for how they handled the Korean War.

From the music page, here's the Newsweek paragraph touting Janet Reno's "edifying Dance Party," as USA Today put it when the project was first announced in 2005:

'Song Of America', Janet Reno and various artists, 9/18: No need to panic—the former attorney general does not sing or even rap here. But she is the mastermind behind this collection of classics that tells the story of America through song. The three-CD set is full of ditties we've all been forced to sing at summer camp ("Yankee Doodle," "Home on the Range") revamped by artists such as John Mellencamp and the Black Crowes.

This CD might be an interesting compilation, but pitching Reno as a musical mastermind is definitely a liberal stretch.

Newsweek Janet Reno Lynne Cheney
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