When Your Boss Is the President, Beefs Become Bestsellers

May 29, 2008 03:52 PM
by Cara McDonough
White House tell-alls like Scott McClellan’s have become a full-fledged literary genre, with some such books more memorable than others.

30-Second Summary

In the memoir, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” McClellan delivers a highly critical look at President George W. Bush and his administration.

But McClellan is hardly the first to publish his grievances with former political cronies. There have been several such attacks on Bush alone.

In his 2004 book “Against All Enemies,” former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke alleged that Bush ordered him to find a link between Iraq and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, despite the fact there did not seem to be one.

Former Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card was believed to be a primary source for journalist Bob Woodward’s “State of Denial,” also critical of Bush’s Iraq war.

White House tell-alls have been around for years. But the most recent examples—including books about President Bill Clinton, as well—suggest that the age of decorum is past. Authors have no qualms about releasing books while the president in question is still in office. This was not always the case.

Larry Speakes, the White House spokesman under Ronald Reagan, famously lost his high-paying job at Merrill Lynch after admitting in his 1988 memoir that he sometimes made up quotes and falsely attributed them to the president. But he waited to publish the book until Reagan’s term of office had ended.

And President Richard Nixon’s chief of staff, H.R. (Bob) Haldeman, waited until after the former president’s death to release his highly anticipated White House diaries.

Headline Links: Tell-all books have their place in political history

Related Topic: Notable and controversial political memoirs

Background: McClellan’s memoir


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