Thursday, March 28, 2013

Books of the 2016 candidates, part 1

If you're going to be a presidential candidate in 2016, you need to write a book, and not surprisingly, most on the speculation list have already written hundreds of pages about themselves.

So let's take a look at those books in what will be a multi-part series.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R)

Title: An American Son

Published: June 2012

New York Times best-seller list: Debuted at #10 on nonfiction, moved to #4 for two weeks, and then out of the top 10.

Consensus: His family's story is gripping, and he's surprisingly reflective and real, considering the temptation of rolling out a do-no-harm book, but policy is fairly light.

Interesting facts from his memoir:

1. He wanted Ted Kennedy to win the 1980 election until his grandfather shook it out of him.

2. His grandfather supported an expansive, aggressive foreign policy that Rubio came to own. Thus, it's important to note that his muscular foreign policy is deeply ingrained.

3. He thought about quitting his Senate campaign during the bleakest days to run for AG.

4. He shed tears of joy when Obama became the first African-American president: "I was so proud to be an American."

5. He'd come to the U.S. illegally, too, if conditions warranted it.

6. He sang "New York, New York" and "My Way" at his own wedding.

7. He had a 2.1 GPA in high school.

8. The mayor of Miami had a habit of calling him "Marcito" when he first ran for office.

9. His sister and wife were Miami Dolphins cheerleaders.

10. His first date with his future wife was Robin Hood (the Bryan Adams one), and he proposed on top of the Empire State Building.

Good book reviews:

Alex Leary for The Tampa Bay Times.
Jonathan Martin for The Wall Street Journal.
Elise Foley for The Huffington Post

Sample Sentence: "These exiles left their home and came to a foreign place where most would never achieve the dreams of their youth."

Same sentence if Kurt Vonnegut had been his ghost writer: "The Cubans wanted to come to America, the Americans wanted to move to Switzerland, and the Swiss just wanted to know if they could give Renee Zellweger back."

Same sentence if Seth Godin had ghostwritten the book: "The shark is a bear. Jump up and down like a chair. Vomit on a donkey. Imaginize your HPV!"

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R)

Title: Leadership and Crisis

Published: November 2010

New York Times best-seller list: Failed to crack the top 20.

Consensus: He's more prescriptive than Marco Rubio in his memoir, and blasts the Obama Administration, the media, and Democrats, while offering up typically thoughtful solutions. But it's a bit less literary than you'd hope for a first memoir.

Surprising endorsement:  James Carville, "I don't agree with the guy on everything, but Governor Jindal has provided competent, honest, and personable leadership throughout some of Louisiana's tough times."

Interesting facts:

1. He called Obama's post-BP oil spill visit a photo-op, and described tense interaction with the president during the visit -- a characterization the White House disputed.

2. A Washington Post reporter was "startled and fascinated" when Jindal prayed before he ate.

3. When Jindal's dad moved to America, he pulled out a phone book and started cold-calling companies (starting with the A's) to find a job.

4. He compares Congress to the Middle East: "plagued by ancient disputes and grievances."

5. He writes about "Men behaving badly", but doesn't include homestate colleague David Vitter on the list (odd, because Vitter behaved badly and has feuded with Jindal).

6. He delivered his third child himself! Read about it here.

7. When he was considering a gubernatorial run, he sought counsel from Haley Barbour before anyone else.

Good book reviews:

Jonathan Martin for Politico.
Stephen Lowman for The Washington Post.

Sample sentence (pg. 157): "What our government can guarantee is our freedom, the liberty that is the miracle of America."

Same sentence if Kurt Vonnegut had been his ghostwriter: "Our government can guarantee our freedom? Our government can't even guarantee that you'll wake up tomorrow morning. What can? Pancakes and cigarettes. I'm voting for pancakes and cigarettes."

Same sentence if D.H. Lawrence had been his ghostwriter: "Our government can neither make love nor make you make love, but you have the liberty to make nothing but love."

Same sentence if Bob Dylan had been his ghostwriter: "The little red hat is getting his hair cut."

Condoleezza Rice (R)

Title: No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington

Published: November 2011

New York Times best-seller list: Debuted at #5 for nonfiction, slipped to #10 two weeks later, then to #18, to #23, to #31, and then off the list.

Upshot: The long, detailed memoir politely tries to settle scores with rivals, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and defend her performance in the Administration, but she doesn't articulate a broad philosophical doctrine.

Interesting facts:

1. On George W. Bush: "I liked him. He was funny and irreverent but serious about policy."

2. Claims Dick Cheney excluded her and Colin Powell from a dinner celebrating the liberation of Iraq.

3. Admits Bush bungled the Kyoto Treaty.

4. Defends decision to go into Iraq, but admits the U.S. was unprepared for what came after.

5. She's "still mad at myself" for going on a shopping trip to NYC as Hurricane Katrina loomed in the gulf.

6. Gadhafi fancied her and gave her a videotape, filled with pics of her meeting with world leaders, set to a song called "Black Flower in the White House." Condi wrote that "it was weird, but at least it wasn't raunchy."

7. She called Donald Rumsfeld "grumpy" and "confrontational", accused him of resenting her role in the White House, and once asked to his face what was wrong with them.

8. She said she never really trusted Putin (unlike her boss).

Good book reviews:

Stephen Hayes, for The Wall Street Journal.
Toby Harnden, for The Telegraph.
John Coyne, Jr. for The Washington Times.
Scott Martelle, for The LA Times.
Susan Chira, for The New York Times.

Sample sentence (pg 523); "The original rationale for the Six-Party Talks had been to prevent North Korea from playing the parties off one another."

Same sentence if Kurt Vonnegut had been the ghostwriter: "The North Koreans want a chance to do to the whole world what they do to their people -- kill, repress, be giant jackasses. The South Koreans just wish the relationship could be more like North Dakota and South Dakota. In fact, that's what you hear on Seoul streets every day, 'Why can't we just be like the Dakotas'?' It's actually kind of surprising when you hear it, but it makes sense."

Same sentence if D.H. Lawrence had been the ghostwriter: "The original rationale for the Six-Party talks now seemed a sham -- a beautiful, illusory sham meant to shame the shame out of their multinational tryst, which they attended to with the ferocity of a lion and the tenderness of a doe at first morning dew."

Same sentence if The New York Times had been the ghostwriter: "Mr. Jong-il and Mr. Bush and Mr. This and Mr. That, and Ms. Rice, and Mr. Rogers and Ms. Universe and Mr., Mrs., Mr."

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R)

Title: Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution

Written: Clearly, before Marco Rubio and the Gang of Eight's proposal.

Published: March 2013

New York Times best-seller list: Failed to crack the Top 35.

Upshot: In a pre-November 6 world, it would have been forward-looking and notable for its thoughtfulness and passion. In a post-November 6 world, it feels late to the party. Nevertheless, its intended audience generally approves of many of the solutions the authors lay out.

Interesting facts:

1. Famously, wrote that "cherished fruits of citizenship" shouldn't be available for those who've come here illegally. He then softened that stance in subsequent interviews.

2. Makes passionate case for immigration reform, claiming that a better, more efficient system will produce economic gains that the country can't produce otherwise.

3. Hates, hates, hates the idea of a border fence: "Makes us seem more like Fortress America than the country whose attitude is embodied in the Statue of Liberty.

4. Their solution for current, illegal immigrants -- return to their native countries, apply for citizenship through natural channels.

5. Suggests giving oversight to a new, as-yet-unnamed government agency within the Commerce Department.

6. Called Romney's rhetoric on immigration an "anvil" around his neck and "tragic lost opportunity."

7. Claims the GOP's golden ticket with Hispanic voters is passing immigration reform and connecting with them on education.

Good book reviews:

Reihan Salam for National Review.
Manuel Roig-Franzia for The Washington Post.
Benjy Sarlin for Talking Points Memo.

Sample sentence (pg 139): "Even if we did nothing to alter our immigration policy, immigration would continue to impact America."

Same sentence if Kurt Vonnegut had ghostwritten the book: "If an astronaut ever makes it to the sun, he shouldn't count on his sunglasses."

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D)

Title: A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an improbable life

Published: April 2011.

New York Times bestseller list: Peaked at #25, dropped to #31, and then dropped out of the top 35.

Featured endorsement: "There is no more inspiring story -- or more compelling storyteller -- in American politics today than Deval Patrick." -- David Axelrod.

Upshot: This is far more of a memoir than policy book The book got mixed reviews -- precisely because the biographical stuff is searing and powerful and the policy prescriptions light and fluffy. He also avoids talking about some of the scandals surrounding his administration.

His second book with Hyperion is due in 2014.

Interesting facts:

1. He almost resigned his governorship after a few weeks, thanks to the toll the publicity was already taking on his wife. She was soon admitted to a hospital for depression.

2. His jazz musician father abandoned him at 4 years-old, and Patrick grew up on welfare in Chicago.

3. He won an award for "Father of the year" essay by writing, "Why My Grandmother should be Father of the year."

4. His elementary school was in such a dangerous neighborhood that students had to slide passes under the door to get into school every day.

5. In high school, he won a scholarship from a non-profit organization, and went to prep school in Massachusetts.

6. He delves into his support for gay marriage

7. When he turned 25, he saw his dad for the first time in 21 years. His dad was playing a gig, dedicated a song to Deval, and had eyes "full of regret and longing, all at once."

8. He picked up a $1.35 million advance for the book.

9. After Obama gave his 2008 acceptance speech at the Democratic nomination, he asked his good friend, Deval, "Was it all right?"

Good book review:

Michael Levenson for The Boston Globe.

Sample sentence: (pg 149) "We do not have to save the entire world on our own, but we can each repair some small corner of it."

Sample sentence if Kurt Vonnegut had ghostwritten the book: "If you can't pick up the classified ads that blew onto your front lawn, good luck, Earth. If you can, don't hurt your back."

Sample sentence if Mark Zuckerberg had ghostwritten the book: 

the entire world on our own."

Sample sentence if Barack Obama had written the book: "We do not have to save the entire world on our own, but we can each repair some small corner of it."

Next week? PART 2!