PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Clarke books place in national spotlight

WASHINGTON: Richard Clarke may not have had much luck getting President Bush to think about Al Qaeda before 9/11, but he did get the entire country talking about it - and him - last week with an expertly timed book release and media blitz.

WASHINGTON: Richard Clarke may not have had much luck getting President Bush to think about Al Qaeda before 9/11, but he did get the entire country talking about it - and him - last week with an expertly timed book release and media blitz.

Granted, it's hardly groundbreaking to do 60 Minutes on Sunday, release your tell-all on Monday, sit for follow-ups all week, and be the talk of the town for a few Warhol-esque moments. But there was noticeably more depth to Clarke's strategy than that. Unlike the last ex-Bushie to take the 60 Minutes route, former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, former anti-terrorism chief Clarke coordinated the release of Against All Enemies with an honest-to-goodness political spectacle - the first public hearings of the 9/11 Commission, which started last Tuesday. By getting his side of the story out two days early, Clarke not only managed to make himself the most influential factor in the most important government inquiry of this administration (nearly half the questions during the first two days stemmed from his book), he made his own appearance the media's most anticipated moment of the week - not bad when you consider the ex-middle manager was up against superstars like Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell. But while Clarke's impact on world affairs and government accountability merit praise, we know the real story here: book sales. With the first printing of 300,000 being shipped Monday, an additional 100,000 had been ordered by Tuesday afternoon, and as of Wednesday the book had spent three days ranked number-one on Amazon.com. Clarke didn't disappoint in the irony department either. When asked why he chose to release his book last week, he blamed Bush's people for taking too long to confirm that it contained no classified information. "It's the White House that decided when it would be published, not me," he told Salon magazine. With earnest denials such as that, it's hard to believe Clarke was not more influential in the White House.

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