Embargo on Suskind’s Book Damn Near Holds; Politico Gets the Scoop on Alleged Bush Administration Forgery [Update]

suskind080508 Embargo on Suskinds Book Damn Near Holds; Politico Gets the Scoop on Alleged Bush Administration Forgery [Update]Politico was first to the line in the race for Ron Suskind’s embargoed new book, reporting last night at 11:23 PM that according to Mr. Suskind’s reporting, the White House had ordered the CIA to forge a "back-dated, handwritten letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein" in order to strengthen the link between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks. The book, entitled Way of the World, had been under lock and key ever since the 500,000 copies HarperCollins ordered for the first print run had come in.

As she prepared to go home yesterday, HarperCollins publicity director Tina Andreadis braced herself for a long, nervous night. Mr. Suskind’s new book, whose elaborate press rollout she had been planning for months, was finally going on sale the next morning, and that meant journalists from all over the country were going to be trying to find a copy before dawn so they could break the embargo and publish the stunning piece of news it contained before everyone else. Whether one of these journalists was going to succeed was up to fate: if some clerk somewhere—at a Hudson News at JFK, for example—wasn’t totally clear on the whole embargo thing, the cat would scratch out of the bag as if the bag were on fire.

The worst part was really over by the end of the work day yesterday. Ms. Andreadis was pleased that the embargo had held as long as it did, and even if the news did break last night, not that many people were going to see it, ensuring that Mr. Suskind’s television appearances the next day—including on The Today Show—wouldn’t be affected. The news was going to come out first thing in the morning anyway, since reporters were being sent copies of the book along with a helpful bulleted list of all the revelations it contained. What would really be the harm, if The New York Times or The Washington Post ran a story on it at 8 PM?

There was honor at stake though: Embargoes like this almost never go unbroken in this day and age, and to succeed at it with a book as hotly anticipated as Mr. Suskind’s would ring out as a victory over pesky reporters around the world.

In a way Ms. Andreadis can still claim one, seeing as it’s 9:55 AM and neither The Times, the Wall Street Journal Journal, nor the Post have the story.

Still, though, Politico: 11:23 PM! Pesky reporters win again. Late in the fourth, to be sure, but still.

UPDATE 10:45AM: Ms. Andreadis declined to gloat when reached for comment, but Mr. Duggan wrote in to say, "There was no room for error in this rollout, so yes, I’m breathing a sigh of relief that the embargo held. It had to."

Mike Allen of Politico, meanwhile, gives us the tick-tock on how he got the story:

We had accepted the embargo, but at the last minute they decided not to share the book. So around 8 last night, while I was waiting for the Brett Favre news conference, I went looking in Washington bookstores, and found a huge stack in the window of the second place I visited. We broke the Scott McClellan story the same way — just buying a copy off the shelf, where it had been sitting for awhile. I started writing the Suskind story from the bottom, typing interesting nuggets into my laptop as they popped up. I first went to "Bush," "Cheney," "Rove," "Rice" and "Iraq" in the index, then started flipping through the pages. I was writing the forgery allegation as a bullet point, then suddenly thought, "Hmm, we might have a lead." I filed at 10:43 and we posted at 11:23. It’s a win-win: More publicity for Ron and the book, and an interesting article for our readers.