National Review editor Rich Lowry posted a brief indictment Wednesday of the editors at The Washington Post‘s Book World for deciding not to review a recently published book about the run-up to the Iraq war by former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith. The book, War and Decision, came out from Harper on April 8, and Mr. Lowry found it “outrageous” that the Post had not run a review of it. “Apparently,” he wrote, “it’s OK to heap every failure in Iraq on Feith’s head, but then to turn around and pretend he’s a figure of no consequence when he writes a book.”
Book World editor Marie Arana (who, incidentally, took a buyout from the paper recently and will be leaving her job) could not be reached this afternoon, and her man in charge of nonfiction coverage, Alan Cooperman, declined to comment.
According to Mr. Feith, who has been at Georgetown since leaving the Pentagon in 2005, the reason his book was not reviewed had to do with the fact that Post reporters Thomas Ricks and Karen DeYoung had written about it in the paper’s news pages back in March.
“About a month before my book came out, Ricks and Karen DeYoung did an article on it based on a leaked typescript on the front page of The Post. Ricks called me the night before it came out and said he was going to do this piece against the publisher’s embargo,” Mr. Feith said. “I said, ‘Did you read the book?’ and he said, ‘No, we just flipped through it for newsworthy items.’ And then Karen DeYoung told a friend of mine that they had six hours with it from the time they got the typescript.”
Mr. Feith noted that War and Decision was not a short book. Indeed, it clocks in at 688 pages.
“They did not read the book,” Mr. Feith said. “I pointed this out when I was told by The Post that they were not gonna ask anybody to read it and review it because it had already been written about. I said, ‘It was written about by people who hadn’t read it.’ And he said, ‘Well, what did they miss?'”
A week later, Mr. Feith said, he called Ms. Arana and asked her if the situation had changed.
“When I spoke to her she just reaffirmed the decision not to review it,” he said.
So, did Mr. Feith think The Post was ignoring his book because it was sympathetic to the administration, as Mr. Lowry had suggested in his post on the National Review blog?
“All I know is they have extensively reviewed books that are critical of the administration,” he said. “My book is a critical examination from the point of view of someone who is fundamentally sympathetic with what the president was faced with and how he decided. It’s the only book of any significance that’s come out about Iraq from anyone who was within the government that takes that position. They reviewed all the others and they didn’t review mine.”
According to Mr. Feith, the never-to-be Post review was not the only article about War and Decision that had been squashed because of the article Mr. Ricks and Ms. DeYoung wrote in March.
“[New York Times reporter] James Risen did a news piece on it,” Mr. Feith said. “He interviewed me, he did this piece on the book, and his editors rejected it. He said it was not political. He said that because Ricks and DeYoung did their piece, his editors wouldn’t run his.”