People of the Book

We already knew that Ken Cuccinelli’s recent book, The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight For American Liberty, was going to be a problem for his gubernatorial campaign in Virginia, since he chose to publish 272 pages of dripping red meat. But now excerpts from Terry McAuliffe’s 2007 memoir, What A Party!: My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and Other Wild Animals, are popping up all over, and will undoubtedly be used by Team Cooch to neutralize scrutiny of his own book.

I’m guessing McAuliffe wasn’t thinking about an imminent race for elected office when he wrote, or dictated, or authorized his memoir. From the excerpts it appears to include material more suited to promote his image as one of the more effective political fundraisers and all-around fixers of his day, than to lay the groundwork for a campaign. But it really hasn’t been an issue until the last few days, notes David Freedlander at The Daily Beast:

McAuliffe published What a Party! in 2007, back when he was practically professionally known as a “Friend of Bill,” and thought of as a likely cabinet appointee or ambassador in a future Hillary Clinton administration. At the time, the book was well received as the lively account of a Democratic loyalist who seemed to be willing to do anything to help the party, even as it was mocked for McAuliffe’s penchant for name-dropping—Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Tony Blair, Sophia Loren, Julio Iglesias, Lenny Kravitz all come up for mention, as do, with much frequency, Bill and Hillary Clinton.

McAuliffe hasn’t walked away from What A Party! When he first ran for governor in 2009, he had his campaign staff carry around boxes of the book around the state in order to introduce the candidate to voters.

I haven’t read What A Party!, but strongly suspect it does not contain a lot of stuff designed to whip up readers into an ideological hate frenzy. So if the Virginia governor’s race turns even superficially into a battle of the books, Cooch may not fare so well after all. Eventually both men may regret killing trees to see their mugs smiling from bookstore displays (if there are any of them left in the Commonwealth of Virginia). It’s kind of like Mark Sanford’s fiancee showing up in front of the cameras at his side before he had quite won his congressional race in South Carolina: even if publishing a book was a good idea, it’s an even better idea to think about the timing.

Otis would probably agree:

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.