Branding opportunities

About these awesome book deals that do nothing to save anyone: Dahlia Lithwick last November:

These books are not necessarily about saving the country. Take, for example, Bolton, Trump’s hawkish former national security adviser, who reportedly just reached a $2 million deal with Simon & Schuster for a book to come out next year. Now, Bolton could certainly serve his nation right now by confirming what Fiona Hill has testified to regarding the effort to extort Ukrainian assistance in cooking up oppo research for Trump in advance of the 2020 election. Hill has said that when the plot unwound around Bolton, he told her, “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” and asked her to convey that to a White House lawyer. Bolton could surely testify to these and other facts as part of a time-sensitive impeachment inquiry that starts this week. Bolton’s lawyer said in a letter to House Democrats Friday that Bolton “was personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far.” Which sounds like an elevator pitch for an awesome book-to-movie deal. But it’s also a reason he should appear before Congress. Except he has declined to testify, and presumably will not until a federal judge reaches a decision compelling him to do so, a decision that will be appealed and then appealed again and may come long after the impeachment trial has wrapped. For Bolton, the constitutional imperative lies in locking down the book deal.

And Bob Woodward did the same thing – kept vital life-or-death information to himself until the book was ready.

Now John Kelly has not gotten a book deal yet, but he reportedly uses the threat of his future book deal to ensure that Donald Trump doesn’t go after him personally. Apparently the former chief of staff assured his boss that while he would eventually write a book about his time in the White House, he’d wait until Trump was out of office. So long as Trump doesn’t denigrate him first. Some use books to ease the conscience. Others use them to keep Trump at bay. You know, party before Country. Brand above All.

(Fun fact: Trump did denigrate him the other day, over the story about Trump’s callous questions to Kelly when they went to Arlington Cemetery together. Maybe that book is being typed even now.)

In spite of all of this, “books” have somehow retained their vestigial illusion of seriousness and sobriety and adherence to truth and higher values. But these books aren’t penned to make us a better polity, to bring us face to face with our better angels, or to illuminate and elucidate democratic values. They’re branding opportunities for an age of media personalities. This is George Orwell, if Orwell had slowly built an international luxury bedding empire, with 1984 as just one rung on the ladder.

Woodward put his book ahead of a lot of lives.

One Response to “Branding opportunities”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting