In this week’s New York magazine, I’ve got a short little essay arguing that presidential memoirs exist not to be read so much as to be discussed. That’s clearly the case with Bush’s new Decision Points, though the full details of his TV tour didn’t surface until after my story had gone to press. Still, the history of this genre — or, more accurately, the history of the promotion of this genre — gave me more than enough to go on. Bush’s book, like all presidential memoirs, will matter less as a weighty tome than as a multimedia launching platform. While all of the media depend heavily on books — think of the forthcoming reviews, Op Eds, and blog posts digesting Decision Points’ greatest hits — the most important format will be the least bookish: television. At one point in my essay, I mention the now-forgotten TV genre of the “electronic memoir.” Well, there’s no need to sell an electronic memoir when a book will accomplish the same thing: getting you and your message on TV.
That’s what’s happening with Bush’s presidential memoir, and that’s what’s been happening since Truman’s. Still, there are a few new things about the promotion of Decision Points: a book trailer; an elaborate and viral-friendly Facebook contest; and what sounds like an amazing ebook, which will include the text of Bush’s speeches, some of his home movies, even handwritten letters and extra photos. (Decision Points won’t be the first presidential memoir ebook, surprisingly enough — there was a palmOne edition of Clinton’s My Life.) But the weirdest digital aspect of this is that the first real details from Bush’s book appeared on The Drudge Report. Media reporters got pretty sloppy here: most of them described this as a “leak,” and some even assumed Drudge had the entire book. But there’s no reason to believe any of that. After his “**Exclusive** **Must Credit**” throat clearing, Drudge wrote:
“It was a simple question, ‘Can you remember the last day you didn’t have a drink?'”
So begins President George W. Bush in the opening chapter [“Quitting”] from the most anticipated book of the season, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal.
Drudge wouldn’t respond to my requests for comment. But that “can reveal” seems pretty telling. In fact, if I had to bet, I’d say Crown leaked him this information directly. The publisher’s employees haven’t kept especially quiet about Bush’s book (for example). And they can’t be unhappy with what Drudge wrote. Indeed, when it comes to leaks, Crown couldn’t have — I don’t even know what the right metaphor is anymore: scripted? written? — a better result.
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