Three brief things this week:
First, housekeeping! I’ve added a new page this week, which you’ll see at the top of the screen (or the link is here), in which I offer my best summary and quick, highly-subjective review of each book in five sentences or less. I’ll update this as I keep reading.
Second, as promised, my thoughts on Rand Paul’s book Taking a Stand. They go something like this:
Please, Rand Paul, stay in the race. Paul’s book might be my favorite so far: I was very prepped to be annoyed with him, but the book hits so many things I value: it’s relatively well-cited; it addresses more than just one or two issues on both domestic and foreign policy; it actively takes a position against executive power; it addresses minority voters in a way that actually takes on American racism, including the wage gap and mass incarceration, and although it is personal, it focuses mainly on Paul’s legislative record and bipartisan projects. I don’t agree with him on quite a lot, but I’ve enjoyed this one, and will come back to it in more depth soon.
One thing I will say now, because it’s a small but maybe significant way Rand Paul stands out: where all of the other candidates have explicitly stated that at the time of writing, they hadn’t decided to run yet (Clinton) or avoid the issue completely (Carson and Walker first among these), Paul speaks to what he will be like as a president, or presidential candidate. I do wonder from a legal perspective whether this could be significant, since I’m aware that declaring a candidacy has an impact on PAC funding. Regardless, it’s an interesting pretense: as I’ve said before, even if the candidates haven’t expressly decided, publishing a book in the two-year run-up speaks to having a clear eye on the options.
Third: Ben Carson is the gift that keeps on giving for this project. As has been widely noted, Ben Carson is suspending his presidential campaign for six months for a book tour promoting his latest book, A More Perfect Union. As Politico points out, this isn’t totally crazy, and for a lot of reasons that I’ve already touched on: this boosts his name recognition in some early-voting states, and encourages voters’ view of him as a candidate with some depth and an outsider voice. The more avenues for media dissemination, the better for voter recognition. Additionally, Carson’s campaign’s financial disclosure also reveals how much money the campaign has spent on books: according to the same Politico article, the campaign has so far spent $1,412 on books from his new publisher, Random House, in addition to $48,000 on Carson’s other titles from Harper Collins, and $64,000 on printing fees to Harper Collins again to produce an abridged edition of Carson’s first bestselling memoir Gifted Hands as a reward for donors who chip in $20. Assuming that the campaign can print a book for $5 (and that’s a high estimate), that could mean a book for 12,800 donors, and a profit of $192,000 off the lot.
As Iowa conservative Ann Trimble-Ray said, “It’s a book tour, it’s capitalism, Republicans are all about capitalism”. This is true, but underscores the fact that writing a political memoir isn’t necessarily a profit-driven enterprise in itself, but rather an investment for a bigger haul down the road.
What this all does mean for this blog is that playing by my own rules, I have to read Ben Carson’s new book. The Amazon page says that it’s already a #1 Bestseller in “Civics and Citizenship,” and the cover clearly states that he’s a “New York Times Bestselling Author.” The book list has been duly updated.