WASHINGTON — As former President Bill Clinton seeks to finish his memoirs, Democrats are voicing concern that the book could overshadow Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign, diverting attention to Clinton's outsized legacy of scandal and achievement.
Many Democrats said they wanted the book published as early as possible before the election and, certainly, before the Democratic national convention in late July. They fear that the book will embolden Clinton's foes to turn out and vote for President Bush.
Clinton, for his part, has increased the nervous speculation about the book in Democratic circles by making a habit of picking up the phone to regale friends with long passages and even chapters of his prose. Mixing boyish enthusiasm with a craving for approval, people who have received the calls said, he has proudly narrated excerpts about everything from college antics with his pals at Georgetown to his 1995 stand-off with Republicans that led to a government shutdown.
"It'll get a lot of air space, and I think it's imperative that happen in front of the convention," said John D. Podesta, a chief of staff in Clinton's White House. "Kerry's benefited by having a clear shot, clear air space, from the convention through November."
A close associate of Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said that, for his part, "If it comes out any time before the election, it's not particularly good for us because he takes up a lot of oxygen. It's less that he's a negative and more that he'll be out on his book tour and he'll be the story of the week rather than John Kerry."
Clinton, who has been working on the book for two years, has promised the Democratic Party's chairman, Terry McAuliffe, that it would be released well before the convention's opening day, July 26, party officials said. Officials said they believed the book and a nationwide tour could even serve as a boost for Democrats across the nation, as long as it happens before July 26.