George Bush is about to throw the book at the country.
What a relief to know that the nutbag who flung a book at President Obama the other day was just an “overexuberant” admirer who wanted the president to read his book, and not an unstable homicidal maniac like Byron Williams who had overdosed on too much Glenn Beck.
Rumors the unidentified book thrower is actually former President George Bush appear to be unfounded. Tossing a volume in the direction of the chief executive is, I’ll grant, an inventive way of garnering publicity in an ever-more competitive book market. But Obama has already done wonders for Bush’s forthcoming memoir, Decision Points, simply by not solving all the country’s problems in his first 2o months in office.
Remember when Bush left Washington with the lowest approval rating in history? Speculation in late 2008 had New York publishers skeptical about a Bush memoir, and much more interested in books by Karl Rove, Condaleeza Rice, and even First Lady Laura Bush.
Now less than two years later, according to a CNN poll, the country is divided on whether Obama is a better president than Bush. True, 238 leading presidential scholars view Bush as the worst modern president and the fifth worst ever. Still, who cares what a bunch of eggheads think?
In the age of YouTube and Facebook, every opinion is equal. So what if you went to college and then grad school, mastering the self-discipline and hard work historical scholarship requires? In the end that just makes you an elitist, automatically disqualified in the eyes of all those good solid ordinary Americans (Sarah Palin? Christine O’Donnell?) who just know that Obama is a socialist and a fascist.
All this leaves Crown Publishing Co. looking pret-ty smart. Fingering the wind or reading tea leaves, Crown stepped forward in the Spring of 2009 to sign Bush to a $7 million book deal. That’s a million dollars less than HIllary Clinton got, and eight million less than Bill Clinton’s record advance for My Life.
But it’s still seven million dollars! And while I won’t be buying the thing — I never read political memoirs, no matter which way the author leans — I would not bet against Crown making its money back, and then some.
For one thing, Crown has announced a gargantuan first printing of 1.5 million copies, which all but guarantees the book will debut No. 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list when it come out Nov. 9.
For another, Crown is loading a special ebook edition with interactive features that includes not only the links to video, photos and speeches found in the standard ebook, but also home movies, full text of important speeches and handwritten letters. Crown calls it “a groundbreaking new kind of book,” and darn if it doesn’t bestow on Bush a whiff of techno cool.
While I’m not above cheap jokes about Bush writing with crayons and construction paper, I have to admit the format he’s chosen for Decision Points is creative. Instead of a standard linear memoir, Bush has written about 14 decisive moments in his life and career, beginning with the decision to stop drinking 20 years ago and including his choice of Darth Vader as his vice presidential running mate.
When I first heard about this format, I thought, yeah, that’s because he can’t concentrate long enough to write a sustained narrative, and besides, can he even remember the ’60s? But really, who wants to slog through another 1008 pages (the length of Bill Clinton’s book) of self-aggrandizement, special pleading, self justification and score settling?
Finally, Bush is said to be gearing up for an intensive tour in support of the book, beginning with Nov. 8 interview with Matt Lauer, his first major interview since leaving the Oval Office.
Get ready to see a lot of George Bush. The rehabilitation of his image is about to begin in eanest.