It used to be, back in the day, that those who served their country in high positions, positions of authority and importance, would honor their offices and the office they ultimately served: the presidency. Even when they may have acted dishonorably in office, they kept the dirty linens to themselves. That's what was expected of them, and that's what they did.
They didn't write kiss n' tells. They didn't spill the beans. They didn't tell tales out of school.
They kept their counsel, and went to their graves with the stories that gentlemen simply did not tell.
Goodbye to all that.
The unspoken rule of political memoirs once was: you can write what you'd like, and you can express disagreements and even once-confidential conversations (provided enough time had elapsed so as not to imperil national security secrets or anyone's reputation), but you must only do it once the presidency in which you had served had ended. There was to be no memoir-writing while the president for whom you had worked was still in office.
George Stephanopoulos was the first high-ranking White House official to publish a tell-all while his president was still in office. "All Too Human" was a scathing look inside the highly dysfunctional Clinton White House, published nine months before Bill and Hillary backed up the moving van and made off with the White House furniture.
Was it salacious? Yup. Was it delightful? You bet. Was it proper? Not really.
Now a new memoir is hitting the bookshelves, written by former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan. In it, he blasts the president for relying on "propaganda" to sell the Iraq war, which he now deems "unnecessary." He attacks the Vice President and Secretary Condi Rice for incompetence and arrogance, and goes after the president for being stubbornly attached to certain positions.
Some of these criticisms may have merit. The events we are in the midst of now will one day be history, and the history of the administration will be looked at from many angles and with many sets of eyes.
But for someone who was once the president's confidante, someone he knew and trusted, someone who gave him the opportunity of a lifetime, to write a tell-all while that history is still being made, is not cool. There will be plenty of memoirs coming out of the Bush administration. Most will be cover-your-tushy affairs, as memoirs often are. Some will paint a glossy picture. Some will be critical. But their timing is crucial.
McClellan could have published this book in 8 months, when Bush was on his way out the door. But then, he wouldn't have sold as many books. Publishing now may make him a bit wealthier, but it's simply not cool to do to your former boss and your president. Not cool at all.