One of the jokes of political life is how candidates are forced to eat fried chicken at the many fundraisers and club meetings they must attend so they can give a stump speech. I once heard this part of the campaign trail referred to as the “rubber chicken circuit.”
As times have changed, so have elections. Now, it seems, every candidate for president or a party’s presidential nomination also has to clear another hurdle: Publication of a book outlining his or her beliefs.
This certainly is part of this year’s race for the Republican presidential nomination. Not only have almost all of the hopefuls written books, some even are prolific, searches of barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com show. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has five books to his credit and Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, four each.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jon Huntsman Jr., the former governor of Utah, has penned a foreword to just one book – and not written one of his own that I could see.
(You’ll find a by-candidate list of the books below.)
Several of these books have been on the market for years. Others have come out just in time for this campaign. More – or at least one more – can be expected: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has a memoir, “Core of Conviction: My Story,” to be published in November by Sentinel, a conservative imprint of Penguin Group.
The website’s descriptions of the books characterize them in tones ranging from glowing to defiant to presidential. Consider:
> About “This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House”: “When Herman Cain speaks, people listen. When he debates, he wins.”
> From Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s “Fed Up!”: “Our fight is clear. We must step up and retake the reins of our government from a Washington establishment that has abused our trust.”
> From Mitt Romney’s “No Apology: Believe in America”: “Nations such as China and a resurgent Russia threaten to overtake us on many fronts. .... In the face of such challenges, America need not apologize for its liberties.”
One interesting twist to the trend: In addition to writing on politics, Gingrich also has been penning novels. Written with William Forstchen, they are centered around key military events running from the Continental Army’s hard winter in 1777-78 at Valley Forge through the Civil War to World War II.
For several reasons, readers will face a challenge finding these books on the shelves at Braswell Memorial, Edgecombe County Memorial and Cooley libraries, their directors said. Braswell has seven titles, Edgecombe County has five and Cooley has one.
That’s not necessarily bad; there apparently is limited interest in the candidates’ writings.
“With out limited budget and space ... most of our collection development comes by way of customer requests,” its director, Alana Fisher, said in an email.
Still, Cooley has a number of books about past candidates or related to their earlier campaigns. For instance, the library has “The Politician,” the tell-all by former John Edwards aide Andrew Young, the late Elizabeth Edwards’ “Resilience” and “Saving Graces,” Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue,” President George W. Bush’s “Decision Points” and President Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” and “Dreams From My Father.”
Among Braswell’s books, only Gingrich has seen much demand. His “Real Change” has been checked out 42 times. Fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul runs a distant second with his “Liberty Defined” checked out six times.
But Braswell might see this area of its collection grow.
“I’m going to send the list on to my collection development person to consider buying for the library,” director Jane Blackburn said in an email.
Roman Leary, director of Edgecombe Memorial, pointed out another concern.
“A book that’s being written by a candidate ... unless that candidate is going to win, is going to lose its relevance,” he said in a phone interview.
The example he cited was “Unfit for Command,” the book that targeted U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
“Libraries had multiple copies of that sitting on their shelves collecting dust” after the election, Leary said.
As promised, the candidates’ books are:
> Michele Bachmann – “Core of Conviction: My Story” (coming in November).
> Herman Cain – “This Is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House,” “They Think You’re Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep It,” “Leadership is Common Sense” and “Speak as a Leader.”
> Newt Gingrich – “Real Change: The Fight for America’s Future,” “A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters,” “To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine” and “Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in our Nation’s History and Future.” His novels written with William Forstchen are “Valley Forge: George Washington and the Crucible of Victory,” “Gettysburg,” “To Try Men’s Souls,” “Days of Infamy,” “The Gettysburg Trilogy,” “Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th,” “Never Call Retreat,” “Grant Comes East” and “The Battle of the Crater.”
> Jon Huntsman Jr. – foreword to “Utah in 2050: Glimpses of Our Future.”
> Ron Paul – “Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom,” “End the Fed,” “The Revolution: A Manifesto,” “A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce and Honest Friendship,” “The Case for Gold: A Minority Report of the U.S. Gold Commission” and “”Pillars of Prosperity” (March 2008)
> Rick Perry – “Fed Up!” and “On My Honor.”
> Mitt Romney – “No Apology: Believe in America” and “Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games.”
> Rick Santorum – “It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good” and “Rick Santorum.”
Ross Chandler is Life editor for the Rocky Mount Telegram.