Fat Man in a Middle Seat: Forty Years of Covering Politics

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9780375500985: Fat Man in a Middle Seat: Forty Years of Covering Politics
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For over four decades, the legendary reporter Jack W. Germond has made national politics his beat. He is a journalist whose incisive, honest, no-nonsense reporting--and tremendous wit--are hallmarks of a singular career in punditry. Germond is one of our best political writers, and in this hugely entertaining memoir he serves up his inimitable views on politicians and elections across the country and recounts the daily trials of being a political reporter on the road--including often returning home on a late-Friday-night standby flight, a fat man in a middle seat.

Germond vividly recalls the races and personalities of the past forty years in politics: the great New York governors Averell Harriman and Nelson Rockefeller; the ever-present Richard Nixon; and Hubert Humphrey, Robert Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. He writes about the politics of race relations and how George Wallace "wrote the book on playing the race card." He discusses Watergate and what a nightmare it was for other reporters that two "unknown punks" had all the sources locked up. Germond is fascinating on the subject of reporting, notably on ethics and graft, and on the colleagues and bosses who didn't think he looked the part of a bureau chief. He writes about countless late nights in bars, rides on campaign planes, and off-the-record briefings and strategy sessions--the real stuff of politics. Germond is perceptive, honest, and bitingly funny (especially when writing about the enormous ego of John McLaughlin).

In an age when the media have become their own worst enemy, Jack Germond reminds us what great reporting is. Fat Man in a Middle Seat is an essential book for political junkies, followers of current affairs and journalism, and anyone interested in how the country is really governed.

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It's impossible not to like Jack W. Germond, the veteran journalist who became a household name for political junkies during his 15 years on The McLaughlin Group. He's a reporter's reporter, the kind of fellow who knows that for every good story "you spend two or three rainy Friday nights at the airport in Atlanta trying to fly standby and ending up as the fat man in the middle seat." Germond cut his teeth at a small newspaper in Michigan, where he began to master his trade: "Once you learned to deal with Carlos Gastambide, the business agent for the largest UAW local at the Monroe Auto Equipment Company, you would not likely be intimidated again by any source at any level, up to and including the White House." He later rubbed elbows with some of the best-known journalists of his generation, and his memoir contains plenty of anecdotes about these colleagues (David Broder, Tom Brokaw, Robert Novak) as well as the people they covered. His chapter on The McLaughlin Group, which he abruptly quit in 1996, is a real highlight, revealing both his disdain for television's "lowest common denominator" programming and the medium's awesome financial temptations. Like most reporters, Germond is a conventional liberal by temperament--yet readers of all political stripes will enjoy his fast-paced recollections. --John J. Miller

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Advance praise for Fat Man in a Middle Seat

"For forty years Jack Germond has cast a huge shadow over politics, racetracks, and barrooms. This book captures it all. Fat Man in a Middle Seat is quintessential Germond-candid, insightful, and irreverent."

-Tim Russert

"Can it really be, a journalist's memoir that is funny, charming, and immensely literate? The answer is yes. Jack Germond has written a wonderful, engaging book about covering American politics in an era when journalists and politicans still talked to each other and the game was still fun."

--David Halberstam

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