Mary Matalin and that Obama book

9 years ago

Republican pundit Mary Matalin is taking a lot of heat for her role in the publication of Jerome Corsi's widely-discredited bestselling book, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality  According to Matalin's website, she "runs" Threshold Editions, the Simon and Schuster imprint that published Obama Nation. Reportedly she told the New York Times that the book was a "work of scholarship -- and a good one at that." However. as a wide range of critics detail the book's inaccuracies and distortions, Matalin reportedly says that she had no role in the book's editing and production, and can not say whether corrections will be made in subsequent print runs. Matalin's response and Simon and Schuster's apparent silence raise serious ethical questions.

Corsi is best known as the author of Unfit for Command, another popular but controversial book that questioned 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry's military record and patriotism. "Unfit" is credited with helping to sink Kerry's presidential campaign. As the New York Times noted in an August 12 article, Corsi hopes that his current book will help Obama suffer a similar fate. 

That may not happen if enough people read the fact-checking done by Corsi's critics. (Here's a 41-page detailed brief on the book. --.pdf file) Perhaps the most damaging and easily discredited claim is Corsi's charge that Obama never disclosed when or whether he "stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely..." In fact Obama said in his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, that he stopped using illegal drugs in college in the early 1980s. 

Matalin is best known a high-ranking political operative, television personality and wife of Democratic political strategist James Carville. She is also a former member of the campaigns and administrations of both Presidents Bush. According to the New York Times, she has been Threshold Editions' publisher for three years, building a catalogue of works by conservative authors that includes former Bush chief of staff Karl Rove.  Critics say that Matalin has damaged her credibility and reputation by being associated with Corsi's book.

 Here's Hillary Rosen at Huffington Post:

 As the publisher you are responsible for the work and even more so when
you defend it as a "work of scholarship..." and pretend ignorance when
informed of the author's intention to use his profits in a smear
campaign against Barack Obama.

Also at HuffPo, Mayhill Fowler took issue with the facts reported about her in the book and expressed disappointment with Matalin in an open letter

...Mary, you have let me down. How could you? Jerome Corsi? Having chosen Corsi's Obama Nation,
at least you could have done a decent job with the editing. You're old
enough to know that choices have inexorable consequences....

Digby says it doesn't matter whether Matalin was deeply involved in vetting Corsi's work -- she clearly shares his agenda:

Regardless of her official job description, that quote in the NY Times shows that she enthusiastically in the effort to put Corsi's lies into the mainstream. 

Also, BlogHer community member Graceful Parenting took a satirical look at the dubious sourcing and rhetorical technique in Corsi's book.  

Writing in Slate, Timothy Noah questioned whether Simon and Schuster had lower editorial standards for the books it marketed to conservative readers:

What the hell is Mary Matalin doing running a publishing imprint
in the first place? She is a professional propagandist, a political
operative who learned her craft at the feet not of Maxwell Perkins but
of Lee Atwater. Truth is not what she's about; campaigns are, and for
Matalin, The Obama Nation would appear to be just another campaign.

Regardless what one think of Matalin's suitability as a publisher, there is a real question about publishing ethics. In 1999, St. Martin's Press pulled a book that alleged that then-candidate George W. Bush had been arrested for cocaine possession after evidence surfaced that the book's author was a convicted felon who lied about his professional experience. That was the right thing to do, regardless of what one thinks of  Pres. Bush. It is difficult for me to understand why Corsi's book would not merit the same treatment, given the evidence that has emerged to debunk it.

I sent an email to Matalin via the contact information on her website asking for comment about the controversy surrounding the book and her role in it. If I receive a response, I will post it. 

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