Occasional Reports, Notes and Commentaries on the Road to the White House
by Eric M. Appleman
May 19, 1998--At least half a dozen potential 2000 presidential candidates have recently published books or will do so by the end of the year. These pre-campaign volumes now trickling into bookstores will build into a noticeable stream twelve to eighteen months from now.
For the potential candidate, a book offers a means of setting out his or her political views in detail and perhaps also offering insights of a more personal nature. Often a book necessitates a book tour, affording the could-be candidate the opportunity to travel the country and do lots of media. The tour may conveniently include stops in strategic states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
The campaign genre encompasses a broad range of works, including biographies and autobiographies, candidate manifestos, "boys on the bus"-type journalistic accounts and academic analyses that may be issued years after the campaign's end. Some of these books can be fairly dry. From the 1996 campaign, President Clinton's Between Hope and History (Times Books, September 1996) or the Dole-Kemp contribution Trusting the People (HarperCollins, August 1996) were not recommended beach reading for anybody but policy wonks. Occasionally, however, a campaign-type work will make the best-seller lists as did Colin Powell's My American Journey (Random House, September 1995) and Anonymous Joe Klein's fictional Primary Colors (Random House, February 1996). In contrast to these large printings, some of the academic works are issued in numbers as small as a few hundred copies.
The first entry in the 2000 crop is Newt Gingrich's Lessons Learned the Hard Way: A Personal Report (HarperCollins, April 1998). Lessons is the second book to come out of the two-book deal Gingrich signed with HarperCollins, following on To Renew America. Starting April 3 in Atlanta, Gingrich did a 15-day, 14-city signing tour; the itinerary happened to include New Hampshire (April 8 signing at Barnes & Noble in Manchester) and Iowa (April 16 signing at Walmart in Des Moines).
In most of Lessons, Gingrich focuses on various travails he has been through since he became Speaker. For example, in "Pick Your Fights Wisely" he addresses two battles from 1995 that came to haunt Republicans during the 1996 campaign--the move to adjust the Medicare premium and the government shutdown. "Looking back now I can't understand how we could once have been so naïve about the Clinton Administration," Gingrich writes. He adds that Republicans made the "serious error" of underestimating President Clinton. In the last chapter of his book Gingrich looks ahead, outlining four priority areas he describes as his "Goals for a Generation." (Gingrich repeated the Goals for a Generation theme in many of his speeches during April).
Pat Buchanan has emerged from a year of relative quiet with publication of his book The Great Betrayal: How American Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy (Little, Brown, April 1998). On April 9 Buchanan began a month of intensive publicity for The Great Betrayal, doing numerous radio and television appearances--as many as five to eight per day--and bookstore signings; the tour took Buchanan to New Hampshire on April 16 and to Des Moines on April 29.
In The Great Betrayal Buchanan examines the Global Economy and reviews U.S. trade policy from colonial times to the present. "Our embrace of the Global Economy is dividing us into two unequal Americas; the elites beckoning us there betray everything the Founding Fathers stood for, fought for, died for," he writes. The Great Betrayal provides a basis for many of the ideas Buchanan argued in his 1996 campaign, and some commentators have seen it as an opening shot in the 2000 campaign. Buchanan himself has given no signs that he is interested in a third bid for the Republican nomination, stating simply, "We'll see."
Like Newt Gingrich, Sen. John Ashcroft has some lessons to offer in Lessons From a Father to His Son (Thomas Nelson, May 1998). However, Ashcroft's book is a much more personal volume than Gingrich's. The conservative Missouri Senator recounts anecdotes from his life and career to illustrate the values his father taught him. Rather than delving into public policy, the book is a reflection on responsibility, discipline, character and Christian faith. It is a good read and provides useful insights into a man who is likely to have considerable support among conservatives in the 2000 campaign.
Former Tennessee governor and Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander has written a slight volume titled Lamar Alexander's Little Plaid Book (Rutledge Hill Press, May 1998). The Plaid Book offers "311 rules, lessons, and reminders about running for office and making a difference whether it's for president of the United States or president of your senior class." The Plaid Book, the seventh book Alexander has written, co-authored or edited, is certainly not heavy reading, but is at times amusing and instructive.
More books are forthcoming. Rep. John Kasich, chairman of the House Budget Committee, has been working on a book Courage is Contagious (Doubleday) that will be out in Fall 1998. Sen. John McCain has signed to do a book with Random House. Elizabeth Dole has been mentioned as a possible candidate. In a speech to the Republican Women Leaders Forum in late April, Dole regaled the audience with stories from the 1996 campaign, and mused about the possibility of writing "a little book on the positive side of the campaign."
On the Democratic list, two figures of much speculation, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley and Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, have books in the works. Bradley's fourth book, Values of the Game, a collection of essays about ten traits that basketball fosters, is to be published in October by Artisan. Sen. Kerrey has been working for several years on a book about his father and an uncle who served in the Philippines during World War II; the project has reached second draft stage.
Harry Browne, the 1996 and likely 2000 Libertarian presidential nominee, has published an updated version of his 1973 book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World(Liam Works, March 1998) and plans to publish a sequel to his 1996 campaign book, Why Government Doesn't Work (Little, Brown, Nov. 1995), in 1999. Dr. John Hagelin, the 1996 and probable 2000 nominee of the Natural Law Party, is working on a popular version of his Manual for a Perfect Government.
Finally, it is not too early for journalists to start thinking about the 2000 campaign. Former ABC reporter Bob Zelnick is writing a book about Vice President Gore that Regnery plans to publish around January 1999. Zelnick's book is expected to be critical of the Vice President; Regnery published former FBI agent Gary Aldrich's book Unlimited Access.
Look for the 2000 campaign
to generate many books over the course of the next several years. Happy
Copyright 1998, 1999
Democracy in Action/Eric M. Appleman.