In the 1960s, as a young reporter with the Dallas Morning News in Washington, I enjoyed the friendship of Jack Williams, a much older correspondent with the Kansas City Star. Jack was an excellent and unbiased reporter although his personal views were more conservative than the most reactionary Republican in Congress.
Williams once told me in jest that on January 20 every four years on Inauguration Day, the Secret Service should take the outgoing president behind the White House and shoot him.
"Then, he won't be able to write his memoirs, which will only be a collection of self-serving yarns and untruths," he would say with a twinkle in his eye and chomping on an ever present cigar.
Currently we are faced with a crate full of pending memoirs by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice. Forgive me, but I think I've seen this movie before and will save my dwindling money.
Bob Barnett, a smart and friendly lawyer in the capital, is a master at negotiating big book deals for headliners of all political leanings. As a negotiator, his track record is excellent.
However, in the past we have had examples of memoirs from presidents or their ghostwriters of questionable value.
For example, Lyndon Johnson was absorbed in convincing readers that the war in Vietnam was right. Of course, it marked a tragic episode in our nation's history and marred his presidency.
Richard Nixon wrote little of his criminal complicity in the Watergate scandal. Of course, he resigned in disgrace over it to avoid conviction by the Senate. He was the first president to take such action.
Bill Clinton's recall of eight years in office noted a good economic record for the country, but the Monica Lewinsky scandal was given short shrift. Of course, it caused his impeachment by the House and a save by the Senate and won't be forgotten by historians for his state of morals
Think about it. Franklin Roosevelt died in office and so we missed his own memoirs. Historians have been generous in praising his long tenure in the White House.
Harry Truman left town for his beloved Independence, Mo., home with low numbers in the polls. He simply retired, but historians and politicians of both parties cite his name with distinction today.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated, so we did not get his memoirs. His own dalliances were unlikely to be recorded, since they escaped notice while he served.
Will those figures from Bush 43 level with readers on their performances in office? Will Bush be candid about differences with Cheney? Will W write about why he sided with Cheney and Rumsfeld over Colin Powell and Rice on the war in Iraq? Will Bush finally acknowledge mistakes he made over eight years while claiming none during that time.
Based on the historic record of past memoirs, I have serious doubts.