Free Press (2005), $25
It's no secret to anyone paying attention that when it comes to covering the daily grind of political campaigns, the mainstream media have become little more than barking seals. A body of literature has pointed this out for a good many election cycles now, at least as far back as Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72. The latest, albeit less madcap, confirmation comes from documentary filmmaker-turned-author Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Her book conveys in print what Journeys With George, her much-praised video diary of the 2000 Bush campaign, and the follow-up Diary of a Political Tourist, about the 2004 Democratic primary, laid bare as HBO documentaries: that running for president is terribly demeaning work. Written as a collection of breezy and often hilarious diary entries, Sneaking is more or less the latter documentary brought to life on the page. Pelosi is unsparing in describing the stupid pet tricks to which John Kerry and the band of primary-season losers were subjected in order to satisfy the ever-present horde of largely electronic media. (Step right up and see the would-be leader of the free world make a fool of himself while trying to be hip with Moby, or fall flat on his ass during an ice-skating photo op.) Through snippets of the '04 candidates (quick, can you still name them?) Pelosi illustrates afresh how presidential campaigns have indeed become media sideshows, and how -- but not why -- the ringmasters of the press remain unable or unwilling to reflect on the inanity of it all.