PO: It is a critique, not an attack on Bush. And the author was perfectly at ease with what he was saying. At the end, we suggested that he reread the manuscript carefully to be sure it said what he wanted to say. He didn’t change a word.

JM: How do you think this book differs from such earlier Bush-whacking chronicles as Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies or Ron Suskind’s collaboration with Paul O’Neill, The Price of Loyalty? Is there anything new here?

PO: Scott is a Texas insider, a close associate of Bush, Karl Rove, and Karen Hughes. That gives him credibility of a particular kind.

JM: Obviously you’ve read Bob Dole’s blistering communiqué to McClellan, and have noted the unusually vitriolic responses elsewhere. Is it simply the timing of the book, published smack in the middle of the election season, or is something else going on?

PO: What has been especially characteristic of this year in politics and media is that you can pretty much say anything in a blog or email and it gets widespread circulation. This is a combative era. Politics and media are not a tea party, but reading the blogs—as I have done over the last week—is stunning. Anything goes, including all that stuff about PublicAffairs in The Wall Street Journal, which was lifted from right-wing bloggers that anyone can find on Google, right alongside citations from The New York Times and the Columbia Journalism Review.

James Marcus is the deputy editor of Harper’s Magazine. His next book, Glad to the Brink of Fear: A Portrait of Emerson in Eighteen Installments, will be published in 2015.