As we stand one month or so away from the primary cycle, wherein the GOP will choose some doughy white guy to run against Obama while acting like having a 9% approval rating doesn’t mean their asses are in a sling too, we find ourselves turning to bookstores, because they’re the only place you can get a decent coffee anymore and we really need some caffeine before we have to hear about another debate in the butthole of nowhere.
But even there, there’s no escape whatsoever. So, for our sanity, we decided to break out the Cycle of Presidential Books: when they show up, what they are, and how seriously you should take them.
The Pre-Election Book
Appears: One to two years before the guy is elected.
Generally By: The man himself, although there are usually one or two hangers-on.
Examples: “The Audacity of Hope”, “A Charge to Keep”, “Between Hope and History”
This is the start. It’s not that these guys all know that somehow, they’re going to be elected President. Everybody who gets into political office writes a book, because it proves you have intellectual credentials and that you’re not a blithering idiot, even if you do happen to be a blithering idiot. Find a politician you hate; doesn’t matter what party, if he holds national office, he’s probably written a book. But, hey, at least you’re not so stupid you can’t write a book! You may be completely insane, or think “Funky Cold Medina” is the national anthem, but at least you can use word processing software!
Hooray For the New Guy!
Appears: Right after the new President wins office
Generally By: Some political flack who really wants a TV show or a newspaper column.
Examples: “First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty”, “The Breakthrough: Race and Politics In the Age of Obama”
This is pretty straightforward; somebody who wants to make a lot of money and has enough poli-sci chops to fake it writes a book to reassure voters who are, well, always kind of scared that they screwed up and picked some total idiot. It will be full of policy predictions that will inevitably turn out to be terrible and wrong. It will reassure people that some horrible thing could never possibly happen, which will inevitably turn out to be exactly what happens. And everyone will forget about them.
The First-Year Review
Appears: Generally right around the time the re-election campaign heats up.
Generally By: Somebody you’ve never heard of who is respected by a bunch of people you don’t care about, usually a political journalist looking to shore up his cred and keep his job.
Examples: “On The Edge: The Presidency of Bill Clinton”, “Bush At War”, “The Promise: President Obama, Year One”
What’s really hilarious about this one is that a bunch of people who aren’t actually all that qualified to tell the President of the United States how to do his enormously complex job weigh in with lots of suggestions and opinions that the White House probably laughs at. We’re pretty sure the Dubya White House used these books as toilet paper. Obama is more polite: he probably uses copies to prop up broken furniture in the Lincoln bedroom or something.
Good Lord, Why Did You Idiots Elect This Guy?
Appears: Throughout the entire freaking Presidency
Generally By: two types of people: sincere, thought-out and pointed criticisms from respected thinkers, and screaming monkeys flinging the intellectual equivalent of their own feces. The former occasionally will see the inside of a bookstore: the latter build entire careers.
Examples: Too many to count; even Wikipedia includes a little disclaimer saying that critical books of a President or major political figure vastly outnumber neutral or positive ones.
Pretty much right from the start, you can expect to see this, and if the guy gets reelected, boy howdy will this ever pick up steam. This isn’t to say critics are necessarily wrong, per se: politics is a complicated discipline that involves pleasing an electorate that about half of which doesn’t like you, sometimes for sincere, well-thought-out reasons which need to be aired so the President can better understand his job. But more often said electorate hates you for incredibly stupid reasons, and wants books affirming those stupid reasons. Witness all the books about how Clinton should resign because he got head, or Bush needs to quit because he’s unable to pronounce a word properly.
The big problem with this kind of thing is that utter morons find their audience ranting and railing about the President, and then they won’t go away, embarrassing anybody who shares even a little bit of their views. This is why TV chat show hosts (“political commentator” is not a title you’d bestow on Keith Olbermann or Glen Beck) write books like these, usually at least one a year.
The problem, of course, is once they lose that TV money, the only way to keep those lucrative speaking engagements coming is…you guessed it…writing more books. They’re like rabbits.
The “Incisive Novel” About This Guy
Appears: Usually towards the end of the first term.
Generally By: Some reporter who wants to whine about how he hates the President but wants to stay anonymous to protect his “journalistic integrity.” Inevitably this guy writes the political equivalent of puff pieces and nobody cares about his integrity.
Examples: “Primary Colors”, “American Wife”, “O”
What’s sad about this is “Primary Colors” was a hit, and people have been chasing that loot ever since.
Now That This Guy Is Leaving Office, Let’s Gossip About Him
Appears: Usually in the nine months before the second term wraps up, when you can be a total dick to the President and he can’t do anything about it.
Generally By: Bitter reporters and pissed-off insiders with an axe to grind
Examples: “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Cultural of Deception”, “The Hunting of the President: The Ten Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton”
These tend to come in twos: one pro, one con. But they’re not really about the President: they’re really about how the Deputy Undersecretary to the Undersecretary of the Secretary of the Department of the Interior is very, very upset with how he was not treated like the special snowflake he knows he is, and somebody wants to make money off of it.
Expect a lot of books about how the Presidency played the media and they like totally would have reported this negative story if the freedom of the press wasn’t muzzled. Usually the stories in question actually hit the papers and the journalist in question just wants a new car.
The Self-Justifying Memoir
Appears: Two to four years after the guy leaves offices
Examples: “My Life”, “Decision Points”
And with this, the cycle of publishing is complete.
Seems like a lot of trees to kill for nothing, huh?