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Although Theodore White arguably fathered the now-overcrowded field of tell-all campaign literature, he was too much of a gentleman to ever reveal the truly scandalous bits. It was Hunter S. Thompson who set the modern tone. The much-lauded father of gonzo journalism printed everything he could get his hands on, and, when he was shut out, made things up, such as Ed Muskie’s (wink, wink) addiction to Ibogaine. Dana Milbank, one of the Washington Post’s White House correspondents, falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. His offering, Smashmouth: Two Years in the Gutter With Al Gore and George W. Bush, is the first of what’s sure to be legions of books by media and political insiders on the mangled 2000 election. Milbank covered the campaign for two years, first for the New Republic and later as a Post writer. And as a cynic, he argues that negative politics and criticism are healthy for public interest and debate. Whether or not you agree with him, the wonderfully textured sketches of the major playersfor example, Karen Hughes wears a shoe size so big she has bought heels kept in stock for transvestitesare certainly worth your time. Yet in a book celebrating negative politics, Milbank tacks on just 19 mostly slapped-together pages about that mess in Florida. So why’d he rush? You can ask him yourself when Milbank discusses the book and fields questions at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW. Free. For reservations call (202) 662-7129. (Dave Mann)