Advance Praise for OFF SCRIPT

Pre-order yours today

By far the most gratifying aspect of writing a book is the enjoyment people get from reading it. As OFF SCRIPT has advanced from first draft to proof pages to galleys to, now, the final proof pages, I have been honored to have a number of old friends and acquaintances look over the text and provide some commentary for prospective readers when the book goes on sale on April 26.

Presented below, in alphabetical order, is advance praise from Don Baer, Mike Barnicle, Paul Begala, Jay Carney, Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, Joe Lockhart, Mike McCurry, Mark McKinnon, Brad Meltzer, John Podhoretz, Karl Rove, George Stephanopoulos, Danny Strong, Beau Willimon and Nicolle Wallace. I appreciate beyond words the time and effort that this extraordinarily gifted and creative group of creative people put in to reading the book and providing feedback for me to share.

Pre-order your copy today of OFF SCRIPT: Ad Advance Man’s Guide to White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle, and Political Suicide.

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“Josh King knows what he is talking about when it comes to political messages, because he was there, painting with ingenuity many of our most enduring images from the great canvasses of American politics and the U.S. Presidency. In Off Script, Josh gives us an unprecedented and a candid, fun look behind the scenes at the creative processes that have shaped the reputations of some of the most important political figures of our times.”

Don Baer
White House Chief Speechwriter, 1994-95,
and White House Communications Director, 1995-98

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“In the middle of a campaign, right at its core, are the major-league concierges, the people who can pick the right route, find the perfect setting, the best optics and the spot where a candidate can flourish while the press can find its way to a semi-good place to eat and drink. It’s a full time, full focus job that comes complete with hilarity, heartache, worry, weariness and the constant realization that what you do or don’t do can mean a good or a bad day for the candidate. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Josh King opens a window on the world of the tireless advance men and women who make any campaign work.”

Mike Barnicle
MSNBC political analyst and columnist for The Daily Beast

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“Politics is show business for ugly people. Josh King is the master of making political events look pretty. Off Script shows you how a master advance man works his magic.”

Paul Begala
Senior Strategist, Clinton-Gore Campaign
and CNN Contributor

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“Ever wonder what happens in a presidential campaign when the cameras are off, the doors are closed and no one’s looking? Find out in Off Script, a guide to the messy, ugly and sometimes poignant world of political stagecraft by one of the best practitioners in the business.”

Jay Carney
White House Press Secretary
to President Barack Obama, 2011-2014
former Washington bureau chief, Time magazine

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“Discreetly leading the way in every campaign are the advance men and women who literally set the stage. Josh King, a Jedi master of that profession, vividly brings the image makers out of the shadows in Off Script.”

Mark Halperin
Bloomberg Politics
Managing Editor
Coauthor of Game Change and Double Down

* * *

“In Off Script, Josh King takes us on a guided tour of the theater of politics as we rarely see it: from the other side of the proscenium, all the way back stage, and even into the performer’s dressing rooms. For those seeking to decode the power of image in the age of optics in our politics, King’s book is a must-read.”

John Heilemann
Coauthor of Game Change and Double Down,
cohost of Bloomberg TV’s With All Due Respect
and Showtime’s The Circus

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“Josh King captures a truth in politics–our candidates need stage management on a grand scale to be elected and re-elected. Many gifted advance people have ushered leaders into power, but more importantly many have driven them back into private life. But King’s real insight is that in critical moments it’s up to the candidates to perform on the political stage or simply know enough to not put on the funny hat. A great read for anyone who wonders how the political sausage is made.”

Joe Lockhart
White House Press Secretary
to President Bill Clinton, 1998-2000

* * *

“Josh King is one of the most creative political visual artists of our time. He understands how image, picture, and content come together as one to communicate the messages that America sees and hears as it considers its national leaders. What could be more timely as we embark on a national election to pick our next president?”

Mike McCurry
White House Press Secretary
to President Bill Clinton, 1995-1998

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“Presidential politics is theater at the highest level. Successful events are huge productions that require master stage craft. Josh King is the Wizard of Oz of presidential advance. In Off Script, King pulls back the curtain to reveal the stories and secrets behind the making and sometimes breaking of presidents.”

Mark McKinnon
Co-creator and Co-executive Producer Showtime’s The Circus,
and former chief media advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain

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“Do you love the wicked brilliance of campaign stagecraft and the gilded lies that come with being a politician? Not as much as Josh King does. Off Script will show you why it’s an art form.”

Brad Meltzer
Bestselling author of The President’s Shadow
host of History’s Decoded
and award-winning comic book author

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“Josh King has written a zippy, snazzy book about the inner workings of American politics and the thankless work performed by idealistic grunts who get no credit when things go well and all the blame when they go badly.

John Podhoretz
Editor of Commentary,
columnist for the New York Post
and author of
Hell of a Ride: Backstage at the White House Follies 1989-1993

* * *

“Advance men (and women) are the wildest characters in most political campaigns, in my experience generally a mix of well-organized and half-crazy. In a rollicking ride though the last nearly three decades of presidential campaigns, Josh King chronicles some of the low – and high – moments created by, inflicted upon, or suffered through by the political wizards of stagecraft and appearance, presidential campaign advance teams. Quite a read!”

Karl Rove
Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush
and author of Courage and Consequence and
The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters

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“Josh King has been at the top of the campaign game for more than 20 years — and Off Script takes us behind the scenes to show what works, what doesn’t and why. A must read for anyone who works on — or just loves — the Presidential trail.”

George Stephanopoulos
Chief Anchor of ABC News,
co-host of Good Morning America
and host of This Week

Off Script is the inside story of what really happened behind the scenes in the most infamous political campaigns in modern history. Josh King uses his unique perspective as a former campaign “advance” man and political observer to pull back the curtain and reveal the truth behind the spectacle. With the voice of a storyteller and the experience of a seasoned political operative, King deftly brings us along for the ride and shows us how and why these moments defined campaigns, toppled candidates and presidents alike, and forever changed the optics of presidential politics.

Danny Strong
Executive Producer and Showrunner of
Empire on Fox Television,
Producer and screenwriter of Recount, Game Change and Lee Daniels’ The Butler 

* * *

“Josh King’s nuanced insights into the world of political optics and spin is a must read for anyone who is interested in what really goes on behind the polished veil. He’s been both in the campaign trenches and seen the political landscape from 35,000 feet. His perspective is fascinating, entertaining and informative.”

Beau Willimon
Creator, Executive Producer and Showrunner of
House of Cards
on Netflix

* * * 

Off Script is a deep dive into the juiciest and most fascinating aspects of modern day government and presidential politics.  Perfectly written, there’s plenty of page turning drama for everyone from the White House history buff to the Hollywood screenwriter trying to get the smallest of details about White House stage craft exactly right. Josh nails it.”

Nicolle Wallace
White House Communications Director for President George W. Bush,
MSNBC political analyst and bestselling author of
It’s Classified, Eighteen Acres and Madam President

The First Review for OFF-SCRIPT: “If you enjoy the TV show Veep, you’ll enjoy this book.”

Eighty-three days before OFF SCRIPT: An Advance Man’s Guide to White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle, and Political Suicide hits the bookshelves, Kirkus Reviews has weighed in with the first review of the book. It’s a keeper!

Here’s part how Kirkus’s review:

Public relations executive King chronicles the rise and fall of what he calls “the Age of Optics, where playing to the camera and creating compelling imagery forces candidates far from their comfort zones.” As a former campaign advance man and director of production for presidential events at the White House, the author knows his material well, and he recounts it with irresistible detail culled from firsthand experience.

Read the rest of the review by clicking here.

And pre-order your copy today, please, by clicking here! All sales prior to the April 26 publication date count as first-week sales, a big help with cracking the bestseller lists and building initial buzz for the book.

OFF-SCRIPT in bookstores April 26, 2016

At long last, a few years worth of noodling over advance war stories and wresting over the right words to tell them has resulted in OFF-SCRIPT: An Advance Man’s Guide To White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle and Political Suicide, from St. Martin’s Press, due in bookstores on April 26.

For those of you who enjoyed the Polioptics podcast in the past, this book encapsulates the ideas, theories and images that we talked about every week of the show during our 159 episodes and which have shaped my political aesthetic since I joined Paul Simon’s presidential campaign just out of college in 1987.

OFF-SCRIPT picks up where I left off on my 2013 POLITICO Magazine long-form deep dive into Dukakis and the Tank, diving even deeper into the tank and giving similar treatment to the game-changing visuals of each campaign from 1992 through 2012, reserving the final section of the book for an optical analysis of the Obama years and the early months of the current campaign.

My hope is that it’s useful reading for campaign operatives, road warriors, reporters covering the political spectacle and those beyond the beltway amused or aghast by how the sausage is made.

Pre-order your copy now:


PR Week UK Pulls Back the Curtain on the Willis Resilience Expeditition

A year has passed since we sent 19-year old Parker Liautaud off on a lonely trek across the Antarctic continent. On Christmas Eve, he completed the journey, successfully skiing 506km (314miles) to the South Pole and in the process set a new world record.

During the Expedition, Parker and his team conducted invaluable scientific research aimed at exploring the impact of climate change. By uncovering new scientific data and enhancing our understanding of a changing world the Expedition is deeply entwined with Willis’ core business, which is to offer risk management solutions and strategies to help clients overcome challenges and build resilience for a risky world.

Today, PR Week UK published my narrative the creation of the Willis Resilience Expedition in which we worked with Captive Minds, a great London-based PR Agency specializing in “Big Content” for corporate clients.

To access all of the Expedition’s content, visit

To watch a short video about the Expedition, click below.


Episode 159, with guests Michael Shear and Stephen Grand

Michael Shear and Stephen Grand are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: July 12, 2014 on SiriusXM “POTUS” Channel 124.
PoliOptics airs on POTUS on Saturdays at 8 am & 6 pm, Sundays at 4 am & 5 pm and Mondays at 2 am.
Follow us on Twitter @Polioptics.
Listen to the show by clicking on the bar above.
Show also available for download on Apple iTunes and other streaming services.

President Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry

This week saw a real polioptical kerfuffle break out. (That is likely the first time those words, one of them a neologism, have ever appeared in a sentence.) Republicans (and one Democrat) attacked President Obama for his failure to take part in a photo-op. In particular, they were exercised over the White House decision not to send the President to see the crisis in unaccompanied children crossing the border as part of his trip to Texas. All kinds of fulminating ensued.

 We talk about this question that goes to the heart of polioptics with Mike Shear, a longtime political reporter who is now a White House correspondent for the New York Times. Before arriving at the Grey Lady, Mike was at the Washington Post for many years, covering Obama, the 2008 Republicans (Remember them? They were a hoot.), and Virginia politics. Mike got to cover then-Senator George Allen’s own polioptical catastrophe – the infamous “Maccacca Moment.”


Our second guest is Stephen Grand, an academic, think tank denizen, Hill staffer, book author, and all-around expert on things relating both to the Arab world and to emerging democracies.

Steve’s new book offers a fascinating look at the often messy process when democracies are born at what that might mean in the wake of the Arab Spring (and now, alas, the Arab Winter).

We cap off the show with a visit from founder, guiding light, and host Josh King with a special announcement about the future of Polioptics.

The Trusty Flag Backdrop

As President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address showed, he has journeyed far in his four years. He has earned another term, and on issues ranging from stopping gun violence to addressing immigration reform, he is moving quickly to put his agenda in front of the American People.

As his second term begins, there is a broad turnover among his cabinet. But, it seems, his Secretary of Creativity is still lost somewhere in primary season 2008.

Here is then-Senator Obama on March 18, 2008 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for his famous race speech. Peggy Noonan loved it, and with good reason, but not because the production values of the setting matched her coup de grâce at Pointe du Hoc.

Fast forward nearly five years. Here is President Obama today, January 29, 2013, at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I don’t think the blue tie from 2008 is exactly the same as the one he chose today, but it’s close. And the flag backdrop? It may as well be the Reagan years.

I love the flag as much as anyone, probably more than most, but I also believe its good to help the eyes of history distinguish one presidential event from another. The race speech in Philadelphia was historic, and also made when Barack Obama was a candidate. Our visual association with him and a flag backdrop will always go back to that day.

But President Obama took Air Force One across the country and made important remarks today too, in a state, Nevada, that is in the epicenter of the immigration issue.

Could there not have been an element to this moment that was evocative of time and place? In that way, a decade from now, when the Obama Library is opened and the history books are written, we can be reminded that the president didn’t make this speech in front of a small gathering in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Instead, he journeyed to the place where the issue hits home every day.

Barack Obama will continue his journey as president for another four years. Each day in office is an opportunity put another page in the coffee table book of history. But all pages can’t look the same.


Episode 82, with guests Russ Schriefer and Tom DeFrank

Russ Schriefer and Tom DeFrank are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: December 15, 2012 on SiriusXM “POTUS” Channel 124.
Polioptics airs regularly on POTUS on Saturdays at 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm.
Follow us on Twitter @Polioptics Listen to the show by clicking on the bar above.
Show also available for download on Apple iTunes by clicking here


Before I left PoliOptics earlier this year to join in the campaign to elect Gov. Mitt Romney as the next POTUS, I went to Boston for a sit-down meetings with our first guest, Russ Schriefer.  Russ and his business partner Stuart Stevens make up the legendary Stevens & Schriefer Group — a creative team that has been behind 4 out of the last 5 republican presidential campaigns.

Russ Schriefer of the Stevens & Schriefer Group and Senior Advisor to Romney-Ryan.

It wasn’t my first time working with these two men, but it would be my first time working on a presidential campaign.  It was one of those pinch yourself moments as I settled into the couch in their corner office at Romney for President HQ.  The long slog that was the primaries was over and the big battle was ready to start.

Fast forward eight months and the big battle is over and done.  We lost.  But the lessons learned and the polioptics exhibited by Russ Schriefer in Tampa, on election night, and nearly every moment in between, remain.  This is were Josh King and I pick-up the conversation with Russ.  A quick take on the news this week surrounding Amb. Susan Rice and then full bore into the victories and surprises that standout from the campaign trail.  This conversation with one of the wisest of the wise men in the Republican party is fun and interesting… but nowhere near complete.  As you will see  (or hear)– this is a guest we could literally learn from and speak to for hours on end.  For now, episode 81 is a very good start — but we will take Russ up on his offer to come back again soon.


Our second guest is — in my estimation — one of the coolest guys you can meet in DC.  I’m very lucky to be able to call him a friend.  Tom DeFrank is a veteran political journalist and author. As Washington bureau chief of the New York Daily News, he directs coverage of the nation’s capital for the country’s third-largest metropolitan daily newspaper.

Some years ago, when I was still just a kid, Tom actually came over to my house to attend a going away party for one of my father’s golfing buddies.  Turns out — dad’s golfing buddy – was the best man in Tom’s wedding, and one hell of a journalist himself (See: David C Beckwith, former Assistant to VP Quayle and former Time Magazine National Correspondent).  What a small world.  Twenty years later I find myself sitting across the studio from DeFrank while we’re both guests on a political TV show.  From that moment forward a week hasn’t gone by that I haven’t spoken with Tom.  His experience and humor are seemingly boundless.  Don’t just take my word for it.

Tom DeFrank

Tom DeFrank – New York Daily News Washinghton Bureau Chief

The American Journalism Review rated him  “one of the unsung stars of Washington journalism”.  The New York Times ranked him as one of the country’s best political ghostwriters.  Former President Gerald R. Ford called him “one of the finest journalists I have ever known.”

After more than 40 years in D.C. DeFrank has seen it all.  He was Newsweek’s senior White House correspondent for a quarter century and also served as deputy chief of the magazine’s Washington bureau for twelve years.  Assigned to the White House beat since 1970, DeFrank has reported on the activities of Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama.

DeFrank is the co-author of “Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms”, the 1996 best-selling memoir of controversial Republican political consultant Ed Rollins. He also co-authored “The Politics of Diplomacy”, the memoirs of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and “Quest for the Presidency 1992”, Newsweek’s critically acclaimed, behind the scenes look at the Clinton-Bush election, published in 1994.

I hope you enjoy the discussion — because DeFrank will be back in 2013!

Episode 48, with guests Jen Psaki, Former Obama Deputy Communications Director and Tony Fratto, Former Bush Deputy Press Secretary

Jen Psaki and Tony Fratto are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton
Original Air Date: March 10, 2012 on SiriusXM Satellite Radio “POTUS” Channel 124
Listen to the show by clicking on the bar above.
Show also available for download on Apple iTunes by clicking here.

This week Josh King and I had an extremely fast paced and jam packed show.  In addition to our featured guests, Jen Psaki and Tony Fratto, we’re also joined by PoliOptics contributors Arun Chaudhary and Michael Shaw.


Tony Fratto founded Hamilton Place Strategies, a consultancy based in Washington, D.C., offering public relations, crisis communications, and public affairs consulting services.

After serving as a senior official in the U.S. Treasury Department during the George W Bush administration, Tony Fratto moved to the White House in September 2006 as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary.

In this role Fratto worked directly with President George W. Bush and senior cabinet officials as the White House’s lead spokesman and communications adviser on a broad range of economic and legal policy issues. He worked directly with the national press corps, opinion leaders, and foreign news media, regularly briefed reporters from the White House podium and participated in on-camera cable and network interviews.

During our discussion Tony takes us back to the trying days of 2008 during the beginning of the global financial crisis.  Tony played a critical role in handling the polioptics of WH communications at that time.

Fratto was the White House communicator responsible for international and domestic economic policy issues — including international trade; global financial markets; banking; and international development and global health issues. He was also the White House’s lead spokesman on legal issues; Supreme Court cases; U.S. intelligence issues; terrorist financing; and financial crimes.


Arun Chaudhary also kept the conversation with Tony Fratto lively.  As fate would have it, Arun’s first trip the White House, his soon-to-be place of employment, came under Fratto’s watch.  Arun describes the behind the scenes action of the day the 2008 presidential candidates, Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain joined President Bush and congressional leaders for a critical meeting on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).


Our next guest on the program was one of the top communicators in the Obama administration, Jen Psaki.  Today, Jen is Senior Vice President-Managing Director based in Global Strategy Group’s Washington, DC office. Psaki joined GSG from the White House where she served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director responsible for helping run the day-to-day incoming news response, outgoing message and longer term strategic planning for the communications and press offices including events, policy rollouts, new media, constituency and research teams. In addition, she played a central communications role on key economic and domestic policy issues including energy policy, education reform, financial reform, regulatory and tax policy. Psaki was a five year veteran of the Obama communications team. She joined the Obama campaign team in 2007 as travelling press secretary and went on to serve as Deputy Press Secretary in the first year of the Administration.

As you will hear on the show, Jen offers some great insight into the value of imagery at the presidential level and what impact a simple phone call from the president can have in the middle of news cycle.


Reading the Pictures.  In our final segment of the show we’re joined by PoliOptics contributor and Editor of, Michael Shaw.  I don’t want to give too much away here… you just have to listen to the show to hear the discussion.  But, below are the three pictures that Josh King, Michael Shaw and I examine.

New Yorker illustration: Bob Stake

Gay male kiss David Lewis/Associated Press via Gay Marines/Facebook

Lesbian Kiss: The Virginian-Pilot, Brian J. Clark/AP