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Bush campaign cans biographer

Manuscript haphazard, claims one source; too candid, says another.

By Craig Offman

September 27, 1999
Web posted at: 5:40 PM EDT (2140 GMT)

(SALON) -- Recently George W. Bush's presidential campaign team revealed that it had fired Mickey Herskowitz, whom it had hired to write the candidate's authorized biography, and replaced him with the campaign's communications director, Karen Hughes. But for those who may sniff intrigue in Texas, you won't find any dark conspiracy on this grassy knoll.

"Mickey got things off to a great start. It was initially his idea. The contract called for the book to be delivered in mid-July, but at the end of July we only had a few chapters," Bush campaign spokesman Scott McClellan said in an interview. "That's when we decided to make a change." According to the book's publisher, William Morrow and Company, "A Charge to Keep" is still slated for November.

In a recent article in the London Sunday Telegraph, an anonymous source suggested that the campaign team dismissed Herskowitz because they wanted a less candid book about the candidate's policies. "His campaign does not want [Bush] dealing in any way with the issues, or the specifics on the issues," the source claimed. But another source blamed Herskowitz's haphazard manuscript for the firing.

Herskowitz has co-written many books, including "The Camera Never Blinks: Adventures of a TV Journalist," with CBS News anchor Dan Rather, and "A Fairway to Heaven: My Lessons From Harvey Penick on Golf and Life," with golfer Tom Kite. He has also co-written a book with another Texas governor: the 1993 "In History's Shadow: An American Odyssey," with the late John Connally. Currently a sports writer at the Houston Chronicle, Herskowitz approached Bush with the proposal for the biography. "I've been a friend of Gov. Bush's for most of the past 30 years," Herskowitz says. "The resolution of the book didn't end in an unfriendly way, at least not for me." But the resolution for the Bush campaign may well be a flat book.

Owing, perhaps, to the blandness of the race for the Republican nomination, the candidates' campaign books have received a lot of scrutiny in the past few months. Arizona Sen. John McCain's "Faith of My Fathers," the Random House title in which the senator recalls his grueling experience as a North Vietnamese POW, is No. 2 on the Oct. 3 New York Times bestseller list, and may yet reach No. 1. The isolationism of Patrick J. Buchanan's "A Republic, Not an Empire," from Regnery Publishing, has generated plenty of controversy in both the Republican and the Reform parties. Dan Quayle's book, "Worth Fighting For," wrangled some attention last July when Random House turned it down. (Word Publishing then picked it up.) In her rejection letter to the former vice president, Random House editor in chief Ann Godoff wrote, "I just don't want to be a party to the promulgation of ideas I disagree with so profoundly."

The Bush campaign, on the other hand, seems bent on blandness. According to the Sunday Telegraph article, Karen Hughes is drafting a lengthy section that will describe Bush's political beliefs. In other words, you won't find any wild-youth accounts here. Yet while the Bush camp grapples with its substance issues, a number of books about Bush's life loom on the horizon, several of which will undoubtedly touch upon the allegations of youthful misconduct that have dogged the governor's campaign. Bill Minutaglio's "First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty," from Times Books, will be on the stands next month. Hyperion brings out former George executive editor Elizabeth Mitchell's "W.: The Rise, Fall and Rise of the Bush Dynasty" in January. And Random House publishes Molly Ivins' "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" in February.

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books. -- What's really going on in the world of technology? Know the trends, read our technology section.

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