Donald Trump won election as the 45th President of the United States by studying American political stagecraft and learning what helped previous candidates succeed and doomed others to failure. A figure on the periphery of campaigns for decades, he glided down the Trump Tower escalator on June 16, 2015, declared his candidacy and took his place, permanently, as an actor in the country's greatest spectacle.
Twenty-eight years earlier, at the dawn of what Josh King calls "The Age of Optics" in OFF SCRIPT: An Advance Man's Guide to White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle and Political Suicide, Trump began to position himself for his eventual run for the Oval Office. Pictured at the foot of that same gilded escalator, he posed at the foot of that same escalator for a cover story profile in TIME magazine. "This Man May Turn You Green With Envy—Or Just Turn You Off," read the first part of TIME's headline in January 1989. "Flaunting It is the Game, and TRUMP is the name," the headline concluded.
The cover story came just after Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis lost in a landslide to Vice President George H.W. Bush, in part because Dukakis made the disastrous decision to ride in an M1A1 Abrams tank in Sterling Heights, Michigan less than two months before the election. Why did Dukakis make that ride, and why was it so deadly? Indeed, in each election that followed, why did George Bush, Bob Dole, Al Gore, John Kerry, John McCain and Mitt Romney make similar mistakes that cost them dearly at the polls?
These are the questions that Josh King answers in OFF SCRIPT.
King, who served as Director of Production in Bill Clinton's White House and later was host of SiriusXM Satellite Radio's long-running "Polioptics: The Theater of Politics," brings readers on a wild ride over the last thirty years of the Age of Optics, from Ronald Reagan's mastery of image to Barack Obama's "Vanilla Presidency" to, ultimately, the faceoff between Hillary Clinton and Trump.
As one of the White House's most creative "advance men," skilled at employing the tools to tell help tell the president's daily story, and creating the scenes that the media can't resist turning into news packages and front page photos, King pulls back the curtain on the behind-the-scenes alchemy of political stagecraft. King's personal account, in-depth interviews, and detail-rich stories, and his unique angle on what drives headlines, makes news, and wins elections will serve as an indispensible companion to those keeping a close eye on the Trump presidency.