Coverage of OFF SCRIPT

Media Coverage, Reviews and Advance Praise for OFF SCRIPT: An Advance Man’s Guide to White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle, and Political Suicide



Media Coverage for OFF SCRIPT:

(listed chronologically, most recent first)

  • January 31, 2017: Pop Sugar (Read by clicking below…)

“What comes after ‘Alternative Facts’?”

Annie Gabillet of Pop Sugar had some questions of what to expect from the Trump Presidency, and those who cover it.

  • January 25, 2017: The Verge (Read by clicking below…)

big league microphone

Trump’s Big League Microphone

I wrote a piece for The Verge about a notable immediate change I saw in the presidency once Donald Trump took office.

  • January 2, 2017: “Mack on Politics” (Listen by clicking below…)

Episode 3, with Josh King and Betsy Fischer Martin

Matt Mackowiak, host of the new podcast “Mack on Politics,” had me on his show to analyze the imagery of the incoming Trump Administratoin

  • December 22, 2016: “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” on MSNBC (Watch by clicking below…)

11th Hour 12-22-16

“What Can Trump Really Expect When He Takes Office?”

On his final show before Christmas, I sat down with Brian Williams to talk about some of the challenges Donald Trump will face on the public stage when the Inaugural Parade ends and he gets down to the work of being president.

  • November 7, 2016: “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” on MSNBC (Watch by clicking below…)

11th hour

What are the final hours of a campaign really like?

On my final television appearance of the 2016 cycle on Election Eve, I gathered with Nicolle Wallace and Mike Murphy on Brian Williams’ set at 30 Rockefeller Center. Each of us shared stories about the ends of campaigns we’ve worked on, some happy, some sad, all sleepless. As Murphy said, the days are “fueled with sugar and rage.”

  • November 6, 2016: Dallas Morning News (Read by clicking below…)


The clock on this presidential campaign marathon ticks down to its surprising final hours

A piece I wrote for the Dallas Morning News in advance of an appearance at the Texas Book Festival

  • October 28, 2016: Swarthmore College (Listen by clicking below…)

Lecture: A Tour Through the Age of Optics

A lecture delivered on campus at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility

  • October 11, 2016: Swarthmore College Bulletin (Read by clicking below…)

Swarthmore Bulletin Weyant Art_0

White House Stagecraft: Running for president is our nation’s highest-stakes production

A piece I wrote for Swarthmore drawn from memories of the day in 1984 when President Reagan staged one of his final reelection rallies near campus

  • September 29, 2016: WNYC’s Studio 360 (Listen by clicking below…)

Why a Presidential Campaign is Like a Bruce Springsteen Tour

Studio 360 host (and Spy magazine founder) Kurt Andersen and I traipse through the lobby of Trump Tower to break down his famous escalator ride and announcement speech.

  • August 19, 2016: MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”

Video not available

  • August 15, 2016: The Huffington Post (read by clicking below…)

The Apprentice Who Didn’t Learn

A piece I wrote for HuffPo following Donald Trump’s strange summer swoon.

  • August 10, 2016: Pop Sugar (Read by clicking below…)pop sugar

“Advance Man” Was the Most Mysterious Job in Politics — Until Now

A book review from an interview I did with Nancy Einhart, managing editor of Pop Sugar.

  • August 10, 2016: FiveThirtyEight (Watch by clicking below…)538 dukakis

BACKFIRE: How To Destroy A Presidential Candidate

This film by Jason Reid for FiveThirtyEight Elections and ESPN’s 30-for-30 Films, is a 13-minute deep dive on Dukakis and the Tank. Revisiting the issues first raised in my 2013 article for POLITICO Magazine and Part I of OFF SCRIPT (“The Worst Political Event in History”), Reid’s film features archival footage from ABC News not seem publicly for at least a quarter of a century, as well as a rare interview with Governor Dukakis himself about his worst moment aboard an M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.

  • August 7, 2016: CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow

Video not available

  • July 29, 2016: Fortune (Read by clicking below…)Fortune 6-29-16

Hillary Clinton Trounces Trump With Democratic Convention Stagecraft

Fortune’s Shawn Tully stopped by to watch the video replay with me of the final night of the Democratic National Convention.

  • July 29, 2016: Bloomberg Politics’ “With All Due Respect” (Watch by clicking below…)

WADR 6-29-16

Bus Tour: Clinton-Kaine Channels Clinton-Gore

After watching the convention in Philadelphia, I made a trip to Bloomberg’s studios to talk with Mark Halperin and John Heilemann about the importance of maintaining momentum with a post-convention bus tour.

  • July 26: Slate’s The Gist (Listen by clicking below…)

Optimum Optics: Keep an eye out for the subtle stage-managing of the presidential nominating conventions.

At Panoply’s studios in Brooklyn, I sat down with Mike Pesca to break down the optics of the first night of the Democratic National Convention and look back at the stagecraft of the Republican National Convention.

  • July 24, 2016: The Boston Globe (Read by clicking below…)

Clinton has trust problem, but convention may be opportunity

I spoke with the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey about what to expect from Secretary Clinton’s appearance at the Democratic Convention

  • July 22, 2016: Fortune (Read by clicking below…)

Donald Trump’s Convention Stagecraft: Plenty of Errors, No Major Disasters

I sat down with Fortune’s Shawn Tully to analyze how the Republican nominee’s speech played on television.

  • July 21, 2016: The New York Observer (Read by clicking below…)

When Candidates Talk, Seize Cell Phones

My extended Q&A with the Observer’s Elissa Nunez on Clinton, Trump, and the rise and fall of the Age of Optics.

  • July 20, 2016: WHYY Philadelphia (Listen by clicking below…)

“RNC: Smoke and Mirrors”

A talk about stagecraft at the Republican National Convention with NPR’s Marty Moss-Coane on her Radio Times program.

  • July 15, 2016: CNBC (Read by clicking below…)

“In Many Ways, Trump and Clinton Supporters are the Same”

An article derived from an interview with CNBC’s Eric Chemni and Nicholas Wells

  • July 11, 2016: Medium (Read by clicking below…)

The Clinton Conventions

In advance of the party conventions, I pulled together thoughts, images and videos from the last eight Democratic Conventions I have attended, with Bill Clinton playing a major role in each one.

  • July 11, 2016: WNYC’s “The Sporkful Podcast” with Dan Pashman (Listen by clicking below…)

When A Tamale Determines The Presidency

My old friend Jonathan Prince and I sat in WNYC’s studio with host Dan Pashman to chronicle the mixed legacy of candidates and their foodstuffs.

  • July 9, 2016: C-Span’s Book TV (Watch by clicking below…)


Book discussion with Todd Purdum and Josh King on OFF SCRIPT

Todd Purdum, the former New York Times White House correspondent and now contributing editor of POLITICO and VANITY FAIR, peppered me with questions for 75 minutes at Chevalier’s Books on Larchmont in Los Angeles. The episode has aired on several successive weekends on C-Span.

  • June 27, 2016: New Books Network podcast (listen by clicking below…)

A conversation with Josh King, author of OFF SCRIPT

A podcast for the educational community about new books in the political science category.

  • June 16, 2016: SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s “Tell Me Everything” with John Fuselgang (listen by clicking below…)

‘Off Script’ author Josh King on why Donald Trump’s image has yet to collapse during 2016 race

Josh drops by his old stomping ground at SiriusXM to chat with host John Fuselgang about the 2016 campaign entering a new phase — after the primaries and caucuses, but before the conventions — and why its one of the most critical moments of the election season, where candidates can be “defined” by their opponents before they have a chance to define themselves.

  • June 9, 2016: Time Magazine (Read more by clicking below…)

Time Mag Story

8 Moves Donald Trump Absolutely Must Make At the Convention

Trump’s convention is his reset button. He needs to press it hard if he really wants to win. I’ve been practicing and analyzing the art and science of stagecraft at conventions for 28 years, going back to 1988. And so for Trump, I have eight pieces of, well, advice

  • June 3, 2016, “Morning Joe” on MSNBC (watch by clicking below. The studio conversation starts at the 1:50 mark, after a remote report from Hallie Jackson…)


Hillary Clinton’s campaign-changing “foreign policy speech”/Donald Trump takedown

Secretary Clinton’s speech in San Diego — a textbook case of policy speech stagecraft — stopped Sanders momentum in its tracks put Trump on the back of his heels. On the Morning Joe panel, I break down the process of putting it together.

  • June 1, 2016: Library Journal (Read more by clicking below…)

Q&A: Josh King; A Former Advance Man Talks Political Pitfalls and Campaign Stagecraft

A conversation with Karl Helicher, the director of the Upper Merion Township Library in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Karl was one of the first to review OFF SCRIPT.

  • May 30, 2016: PBS NewsHour (Watch by clicking below…)


The high art — and power — of political stagecraft in the age of optics

NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff and I sat down in conversation about many of the notable chapters in OFF SCRIPT.

  • May 27, 2016: Bloomberg Politics’ “With All Due Respect” (Watch by clicking below…)


2016 Optics: Inside and Outside a Donald Trump Rally

My second visit with Mark Halperin & John Heilemann on their Bloomberg set, taking full advantage of their interactive “big screen” to break down the visuals in this “Photo-optics” segment.

  • May 22, 2016: Dallas Morning News (Read more by clicking below…)

Q&A: Former White House advance man Josh King on setting the stage for television news

The Dallas Morning News published excerpts of my KERA conversation with Krys Boyd as a Q&A in the Sunday edition of the paper

  • May 20, 2016: WNYC’s “The Leonard Lopate Show” (Listen by clicking below…)

When Political Stagecraft Goes Awry, an Inside Look at Campaign Spectacle

A 17-minute conversation on stagecraft with one of the icons of public radio talk.

  • May 19, 2016: Lecture at the Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut (Watch by clicking below…)

An evening with Josh King

This is a version of my full lecture based on the stories chronicled in OFF SCRIPT

  • May 17, 2016: “Morning Joe” on MSNBC (Watch by clicking below…)

Morning Joe 2a

Navigating Fumbles and Building a Political Image

I was asked to tell the classic tale of “Bush and the Supermarket Scanner” around the table with Nicolle Wallace, Ben Ginsberg, Mike Barnicle and Mark Halperin

Morning Joe 2

  • May 16, 2016: KGO-810 Radio San Francisco: “The Brian Copeland Show” (Listen by clicking below…)

Josh King with Brian Copeland

A half hour with one of the Bay Area’s leading drive time talk radio hosts

  • May 16, 2016: “Hardball” with Chris Matthews on MSNBC (Watch by clicking below…)

Roundtable with Katy Tur of NBC News, Howard Fineman of The Huffington Post, and Josh King, author of OFF SCRIPT

Video not yet available

  • May 16, 2016: The Hartford Courant (Read by clicking below…)

Former Clinton Aide To Discuss Behind The Scenes Making Of A Candidate

In advance of a lecture at Hartford’s historic Mark Twain House, I talked with reporter Russell Blair about campaign stagecraft as it played out in the Connecticut primary

  • May 13, 2016: “Kickass Politics” podcast with Ben Mathis (Listen by clicking below…)

Campaign Advance Man Josh King On White House Stagecraft, Photo-Ops Gone Wrong & The “Hat Rule”

Ben Mathis and I spent an hour talking about the Age of Optics, from Dukakis and The Tank to the present.

  • May 11, 2016: Taegan Goddard’s POLITICAL WIRE Podcast (Listen by clicking below…)

An Advance Man’s Look at the 2016 Campaign

In this episode of Political Wire Conversations, Chris Riback talks to Josh King about his new book and the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • May 11, 2016: Meet The Press Daily (Watch by clicking below…)

One-on-one conversation with Steve Kornacke about campaign stagecraft

  • May 11, 2016: The Jared Rizzi Podcast” (Listen by clicking below…)

Josh King stays on-script about Off Script

We talk about nourishing news vs junk food journalism, the platonic ideal of a presidential event, and why Donald Trump should pay for extra jib cranes at all his events.

  • May 6, 2015: “With All Due Respect” on Bloomberg Television (Watch by clicking below…)


Presidential Optics Guru Josh King Grades the 2016 Candidates

Using the great jumbo video wall technology at Bloomberg’s WADR studio, hosts John Heilemann and Mark Halperin allowed me to take viewers on a tour of the recent stagecraft of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump

  • May 6, 2016: “Morning Joe” on MSNBC (Watch by clicking below…)

How did Trump master his own political marketing?

A hale & hearty segment with Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Donny Deutsch & Mark Halperin about optics & stagecraft.

  • May 5, 2016: New York Public Library “Young Lion’s Forum” (Watch by clicking below…)


OFF SCRIPT: Josh King in conversation with Fortune Magazine’s Shawn Tully

Shawn wrote the first review of OFF SCRIPT. The first 37 minutes of the hour-long event were recorded.

  • May 5, 2016: National Press Club Podcast with Jared Rizzi, White House correspondent for SiriusXM “POTUS” (Listen by clicking below…)

Understanding the Political News Cycle

On the eve of Nerd Prom, Jared Rizzi and I got into the weeds on presidential news coverage.

  • May 4, 2016: “Think” with Krys Boyd on KERA in Dallas (Hourlong interview with Krys. Listen by clicking below…)

Presidential Publicity 

My favorite format: an hour-long radio conversation, like Marc Maron’s WTF, but with the dulcet voice of Krys Boyd throwing the questions my way.

  • May 4, 2016: “Squawk Alley” on CNBC (Watch by clicking below…)

“The Art of Political Stagecraft,” interview with Carl Quintanilla

I joined Carl on the CNBC set at the New York Stock Exchange. Three minutes of the interview are here. My postulation: might Donald Trump be able to pull someone like Oympia Snow out of retirement for his VP pick?

  • May 4, 2016: New York Post “Page Six” (Read more by clicking below…)

Politicos mingle at book bash for Josh King

Well, what can you say? It’s Page Six(!)

  • May 3, 2016: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central (Extended Interview)  (Watch by clicking below…)


Josh King — “Off Script” and Creating a Presidential Tableau

A career highlight, for sure, but my biggest regret about this segment? I didn’t pull out a mini American Flag in a plastic base and put it on the desk between Trevor and me, recalling the great bit in 1988 when Johnny Carson revealed the hourglass to time Gov. Bill Clinton after the overtime speech at the Democratic Convention (discussed in OFF SCRIPT, pp. 99-101)

  • May 3, 2016: The Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR/Connecticut Public Radio (Listen by clicking below…)

A Backstage Look at Political Stagecraft

Great to be back on my old hometown NPR station from the Hartford days. Colin’s team did a funny VEEP bit at the top of the hour, and it was a hoot sharing the mic with Ed Emerson, a “working dinosaur” out in the field leading advance trips for Secretary Clinton.

  • April 27, 2016: Bloomberg  Surveillance (Listen by clicking below…)

King: The worst event in politics is when people make a mistake (interview begins at the 5:30 mark)

I sat down with Mike McKee, an old friend who covered the White House for the dear-departed CONUS.

  • April 27, 2016: Washington Examiner (Read more by clicking below…)

Famous Obama photo of bin Laden killing almost nixed

The great Paul Bedard, who “drove the conversation” as Washington Whispers before we even knew what “driving the conversation” was, found an interesting nugget in OFF SCRIPT (pp. 269-271) about the famous “Situation Room Photo.”

  • April 26, 2016: WHC Insider (Read more by clicking below…)

Former White House Advance Man Josh King Releases The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Politics

This is the piece that kicked off White House Correspondents’ Association weekend with the superlative blurb, “Off Script is a book that Donald Trump will quote.”

  • April 24, 2016: Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” (Watch by clicking below…)

Lessons learned from political campaign fiascoes

I sat down with Tucker Carlson to swap war stories about the campaign trail mishaps of Mike Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry. In a book about six Republicans and six Democrats, notice a pattern here? That’s fine. Happy to answer any questions about stagecraft.

  • April 18, 2016: Slate’s The Gist (Listen by clicking below…)

Josh King and host Mike Pesca talk campaign stagecraft and political spectacle on Slate’s The Gist

Mike Pesca, one of the funniest, most insightful titans of Podcastland, dove deep with me into the issues in OFF SCRIPT.

  • April 9, 2016: Fortune magazine (Read more by clicking below…)

Hillary vs. the MetroCard: Snafu at 161st. Street

Fortune magazine asked me to share some observations about Secretary Clinton’s fateful encounter at the New York Subway turnstile.

Reviews of OFF SCRIPT: 

  • April 16, 2016: The Wall Street Journal (Read more by clicking below…)

“If you have ever wanted to get to the bottom of how exactly Dukakis was flattened by that tank in Sterling Heights, Mich., Josh King’s Off Script: An Advance Man’s Guide to White House Stage craft, Campaign Spectacle, and Political Suicide is the book for you…Mr. King delves deeply into Mr. Dukakis’s disastrous ride…and he uses it as a launchpad to discuss the evolution of modern campaign stagecraft and our current “Age of Optics.”

  • April 1, 2016: Library Journal (Read more by clicking below…)

“King presents one of the liveliest and funniest political books of recent years; it will keep political junkies and campaign professionals guffawing and learning. He has done for advance men and women what Timothy Crouse’s The Boys on the Bus did for print journalists almost a half-century ago…”

  • March 8, 2016: Fortune Magazine (Read more by clicking below…)

“By unveiling the mechanics of what makes for great and terrible political iconography, King has written one of the best political books this writer has ever encountered. His skill at interspersing themes from the famous disasters and elaborating on them with his own adventures and insights into the evolution of advance work are worthy of John McPhee…”

  • February 3, 2016: Kirkus Reviews (Read more by clicking below…)

“An eye-opening trip behind the political scene demonstrating how showbiz helped money wreck our political landscape. If you enjoy the TV show Veep, you’ll enjoy this book…”

Advance Praise for OFF SCRIPT

(ordered alphabetically)

“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


“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 canflourish 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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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