The Story of Obama, Written by Obama
Ah, the NYT is the epitome of accuracy in journalism:
Then in March 2004, Mr. Obama's political and literary fortunes abruptly shifted. His victory in a tightly contested United States Senate primary in Illinois made him an overnight Democratic Party sensation.
"Tightly contested?" From Wikipedia:
In early media polls leading up to the March 16, 2004 primary election, [Blair] Hull enjoyed a substantial lead and widespread name recognition resulting from a well-financed advertisement effort. He contributed over $28 million of his personal wealth for the campaign.
When allegations that Hull had abused his ex-wife were made by the media, Hull's poll numbers dropped and he failed to win the nomination. Illinois State Senator Barack Obama later became the nominee.
Obama finished 29 points ahead of the second place primary finisher. Then he cake-walked in the general against Alan Keyes after Jack Ryan withdrew from the race following disclosure of divorce records containing politically embarrassing charges by his ex-wife.
The Times puff piece ads some little tidbits about the writing of "Dreams From My Father":
Mr. Obama was given an office to write in at the University of Chicago through a surprising connection. Douglas G. Baird, a professor who was head of the law school's appointments committee, had learned of Mr. Obama from Michael W. McConnell, a conservative constitutional scholar then at Chicago whom President Bush would later make a federal judge.
Professor McConnell encountered Mr. Obama during the editing of an article he wrote for The Harvard Law Review, Professor Baird said recently. "He sent a note saying this person is really brilliant, we should have him on our radar screen," Professor Baird said. Professor Baird called Mr. Obama at Harvard and asked if he was interested in teaching.
"I don't remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect that, ‘Well, in fact, I want to write this book.' What he really wanted was the Virginia Woolf equivalent of a clean, well lighted room." So Professor Baird got him one, a small office near the law library, along with a law school fellowship that Professor Baird hoped might later lead to his full-time teaching.
This was prior to Obama being elected to the Illinois Senate. A conservative Republican helped hook Obama up with a cushy job at the University of Chicago Law School with an office to do his writing in. Not bad for a guy just a couple years out of law school and no real accomplishments as an attorney. But the book didn't do so well:
The book came out in the summer of 1995, shortly before Mr. Obama announced that he was running for the Illinois State Senate. At 57th Street Books, in Mr. Obama's neighborhood in Chicago, a few dozen people turned out for a reading. There were respectful reviews in newspapers including The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Times Books sold 8,000 to 9,000 copies.
"I joke that 290 million Americans did not buy the book," he said.
Kodansha Globe, a now-defunct branch of a Japanese company, bought the paperback rights for $5,000 to $7,500 and printed about 6,000 copies in 1996, said Philip Turner, Kondansha's editor in chief at the time.
The book was reissued after Obama was the Democratic Senate nominee from Illinois, and did better than before:
Crown moved up the publication date, Barnes & Noble increased its order to 20,000 copies, and the book hit the top 50 on Amazon before it was even reissued. Bidding on eBay for a first edition copy hit $255. By December, Mr. Obama was the senator-elect and his book had been on the best-seller list for 14 weeks.
Wow! Top 50 before it was even reissued! But that's not all:
Two weeks before Mr. Obama's swearing in, Crown announced that it had signed a contract with him for three more books. The first would offer "a window into the political and spiritual convictions that propelled Obama's recent U.S. Senate victory." The second will be a children's book about his life, and the third is yet to be defined. The deal had been initiated by Ms. Dystel, the announcement said, but "negotiated and concluded by Robert B. Barnett of Williams & Connolly LLP."
What happened between Mr. Obama and Ms. Dystel is not clear. Ms. Dystel declined to be interviewed for this article. Mr. Obama said, "It really had more to do with the fact that by the time ‘The Audacity of Hope' was written, I was going to be in Washington and was obviously now very high profile." Mr. Osnos called Mr. Obama's decision to switch to Mr. Barnett, whose clients include former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, "disloyal but not unusual."
Another victim under the bus. But why treat poor Ms. Dystel that way?:
"You're nobody in Washington without Barnett working for you," said a rival publisher, who asked not to be named. "Bob knows how to deal with the politics of a book as well as the selling of the book, Senate ethics rules, the advance. Bob is a fixer." Unlike literary agents, who take a percentage of an author's earnings, Mr. Barnett bills by the hour.
Ah, now it becomes clear. What next?:
Mr. Obama completed "The Audacity of Hope" in the summer of 2006. This time, he distributed drafts to several dozen friends and Senate staff members, many of whom now advise his campaign. They included David Axelrod, his chief political strategist; Anthony Lake, who was a national security adviser for President Bill Clinton; Gene Sperling, a former economic adviser to Mr. Clinton; and Samantha Power, who recently stepped down as a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama after calling his opponent, Mrs. Clinton, "a monster."
The book's release in October 2006 must have been the envy of anyone who ever published a book or contemplated higher office. In Chicago, people started lining up outside 57th Street Books at 4:15 on the morning of Mr. Obama's book signing. For his Seattle signing, the Elliott Bay Book Company rented the 2,500-seat hall where the symphony performs, sold out the tickets in 90 minutes and reported a level of turnout that topped all previous records at the store for any author, including Mr. Clinton.
Did I mention that David Axelrod is a specialist at astroturfing? Oh, and he writes some of those pretty speeches that
Deval Patrick Obama is famous for, so why not a book too? Just a thought.
And didn't the GOP use book deals as a way to bribe officials and provide sinecures? Crappy books written by prominent Republicans (and prominent Adam's apple Ann Coulter) bought up in mass quantities, making the books appear to be best sellers and earning "profits" for the author? (How else does one explain "Liberal Fascism?")
"Barack is worth millions now," Mr. Osnos said. "It's almost all based on these two books, two books not based on a job of prodigious research or risking one's life as a reporter in Iraq. He has written about himself. Being able to take your own life story and turn it into this incredibly lucrative franchise, it's a stunning fact."
Yes, it's stunning, isn't it?