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The 2006 Election: End of 'Gotcha!' Politics?

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

But first, ever since the midterm elections, official Washington, D.C. has seen Republicans and Democrats munching together - lunch, coffee and breakfast between Republicans and Democrats who not so long ago would've seen more inclined to bury their pastry forks in each other.

A: How Gotcha Politics Is Destroying America." Lanny Davis joins us in our studios. Thanks very much for being with us.

LANNY DAVIS: Thanks, Scott.

SIMON: Kind of convenient for you to write this book, have it in print before...

DAVIS: I think I can say that I saw it coming about a year ago, recognizing that there was vitriol on the left and the right unlike anything seen in America for many years. I saw a revolt of the center, and I think we've seen the great center of American politics coming back together again.

SIMON: You suggest in this book that politics is often scandal driven, and you're hard on the press for aiding and abetting this.

DAVIS: I'm hard on the press for being complicit with what politicians want the press to do, which is to use negative and attack-oriented strategies to destroy opponents, and the press loves those stories.

SIMON: But is that a bit like saying that the press also has an interest in murder because we report murders. I mean...

DAVIS: Sure. Reporters do their jobs. And when I was at the White House working for President Clinton, I thought they did pretty good jobs of reporting facts. But then they get carried away trying to be first rather than being right because of pressures from the Internet and the 24/7 news cycle, which were the two technological changes that occurred under President Clinton that made the scandal machine much worse than ever before in American history.

SIMON: You believe that independent councils are often a mistake, and you cite several names. I'm going to rattle off, I think, three, because they're both Republican and Democratic. Ed Meese, who was President Reagan's attorney general; Burt Lance, President carter's council; and Raymond Donovan, secretary of labor who uttered a very famous line.

DAVIS: And in the last election, the American people are starting to say, we need to do it differently.

SIMON: I'm interested in what you say in your book, in the way in which you identify intolerance, not just between Republicans and Democrats, but on certain issues in both the Republican and Democratic Party. And you don't spare your own party on this one.

DAVIS: What the American people are angry about is that we can't even get those issues debated anymore because we're so subsumed under this scandal culture. I think 2006 may have been the breaking point. I think 2008 is going to be the big test as to how our presidential candidates conduct themselves.

SIMON: Mr. Davis, thanks very much.

DAVIS: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Lanny Davis, former council to President Bill Clinton, now a Washington, D.C. lawyer. Author of the new book "Scandal: How Gotcha Politics is Destroying America." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.