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Reich+Memoir - Robert Reich Quote DoctorA Washington...

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Robert Reich, Quote DoctorA Washington memoirist puts words in people's mouths. By Jonathan RauchPosted Friday, May 30, 1997, at 3:30 AM ET Locked in the Cabinet , Robert Reich's new memoir of his years as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, is an engaging policy memoir: insightful, often witty and, what's most unusual for wonk kiss and tells, easy to read, partly because it's told in long stretches of well-written dialogue that add up to scores of novelistic scenes of Washington at work. The book reads like good fiction. Unfortunately, some of it is. Call me old-fashioned, but I've always believed that there is something special about quotation marks. Whatever is between them, in nonfiction, is supposed to reflect accurately words that some real person actually said. Now, "accurately" leaves room for quibbling, and a memoir will be understood by most readers to be offered on an "as remembered" basis. Reich says, in his prefatory note, that he jotted notes to himself, "usually late at night," and then consolidated them to make the book. People know that Reich is not a reporter, and will adjust their expectations accordingly. Fair enough. Maybe he has a good memory. Certainly from a former Cabinet officer, however, one would expect, if not word-for-word accuracy, at least some checking of his memory, especially when public documents are available. Suspicions mount as Reich spins out page after page of crisp conversation, especially when the same remark issues from two different mouths--as happens on pages 122 and 129. Again and again, Reich offers zippy dramatic dialogues culminating in pithy and revealing quotes. For instance, he has Robert Michel, R-Ill., who was House minority leader at the time, telling him this about Newt Gingrich and friends: "They talk as if they're interested in ideas, in what's good for America. But don't be fooled. They're out to destroy. They'll try to destroy anything that gets in their way, using whatever tactics are available." Reich may believe Michel said this, but Michel says he knows otherwise. "That's not my quote, no," he says. Michel says he probably complained about the decline of comity and bipartisanship. But "I would never say that--that they're out to destroy. I'd never say anything like it."
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Reich says that on March 18, 1993, Democratic Rep. Martin Olav Sabo of Minnesota, House Budget Committee chairman, told him this about congressional Democrats: "We're owned by them. Business. That's where the campaign money comes from now." But Sabo says that he could not have spoken with Reich on March 18 (they did talk on March 2) and that, in any case, he neither said nor believes that Democrats are owned by business. Reich "certainly does not
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