With copies of George Stephanopoulos' "All Too Human" flying off the shelves, Little, Brown & Co. was happy to disclose through a spokeswoman that it had started out with a printing of 400,000 copies last week and will have increased the number to 600,000 by the end of next week.
However, despite the surge of book-buyer interest in Stephanopoulos' memoir, some in the media and political clackery have been outspoken in their view that he has violated some sort of implied contract with Clinton by sharing private moments he had with him and concluding with regret that the president had not been "a better man." To encode such misgivings in a book for the ages is too much for some to bear.
"I will say as a starter that Stephanopoulos has violated the golden rule by writing intimate details about the Clintons' personal life that he surely would not have wanted written if he had taken an aide of his into such personal confidence," veteran syndicated columnist Carl T. Rowan wrote.
Margaret Carlson, a Time columnist and one of the busiest talking heads on the TV chat circuit, writes this week that Stephanopoulos' book "will be known as the latest example of disloyalty at the top, an attempt to cash in on trickle-down celebrity with an instant book."
On the other hand, CNN commentator Jeff Greenfield, one of the more thoughtful voices in the national conversation, is willing to cut Stephanopoulos some slack. The other night, Greenfield pointed out that Stephanopoulos could have stayed quiet about the Monica Lewinsky affair, "which is a little weird for a commentator [on ABC]. He can defend the president, or he can do what he did, which is to raise very grave doubts about the president's story from the beginning. And it's hard for me to see how that is disloyal."
Stephanopoulos has acknowledged the loyalty issue and no doubt will be challenged many more times during the grueling 25-city author tour that he began this week. In a recent hour on CNN's "Larry King Live," Stephanopoulos said he disagreed with those who charge that it's wrong to write a book "about a president you worked for. . . . I think there's an honorable tradition of aides going as far back as Andrew Jackson through Franklin Roosevelt and every president in the last 40 years has had aides write memoirs.
"I think the test for a book like this is, is it honest and is it fair and is it a contribution to history? And I think my book passes that test. I'm proud of it."
The flap recalls David A. Stockman's clarion candor in 1981. Stockman, a young man who was Ronald Reagan's first budget director, had been having freewheeling conversations with journalist William Greider in which he expressed serious doubts about the administration's economic theories and forecasts. Greider channeled these remarks into a long piece for the Atlantic Monthly, which infuriated Reagan's closest advisors and thrilled his critics.
Paul D. Colford's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This Sunday, Mother Russia: Monika Greenleaf on the tragic life of poet Alexander Pushkin, Marc Raeff on the brutality of Peter the Great, and Richard Lourie on the country's clouded future.