“Hard Choices” hype not paying off

Looks like Simon & Schuster made a bad choice in deciding to publish Hillary Clinton’s book.

Not that many people are buying it. That could say something about the depth of her appeal, beyond being a media celebrity and liberal icon.

Hillary Clinton at a book signing for memoir in New York City

The New York Times reports (http://nyti.ms/1sGoHlL) that sales of Hillary’s book declined 43.5 percent to 48,000 copies in its second week on the shelves, according to Nielsen BookScan. That followed sales of about 85,000 copies in the first week the book hit bookstores.

Simon & Schuster is widely rumored to have paid paid Hillary a $14 million advance on “Hard Choices”, $6 million more than she was paid for her last book, “Living History”, and to have spent lavishly on promotion of the book. If that’s right, Simon & Schuster may be on the way to losing a lot of money on “Hard Choices”.

And all this doesn’t take into account that a lot of people buying the book are more collectors than readers.

So far, the only attention-grabbing things to come out from all the publicity about the book are embarrassing comments Hillary has made about her family’s financial situation.

“We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” Clinton said ABC’s Diane Sawyer, referring to the hefty legal fees incurred during their White House years. “We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.”

Commenters noted that Bill Clinton earned $200,000 a year as president and that the Clinton’s huge legal debts, largely an outgrowth of Bill Clinton’s misadventures, were paid off with public contributions. They also highlighted that Hillary and Bill immediately leaped into lucrative speaking engagements when Bill’s presidency ended.

Hillary is reported to have raked in $5 million in speaking fees since she left the State Department in early 2013, much of it from speeches billed at $200,000 a pop. Bill has been even more aggressive, pulling in $106 million from paid speeches since leaving the White House in January 2001.

Hillary found herself in more hot water when she told the Guardian  she’s not “truly well off” and insisted that she and Bill “pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names…”  Bloomberg News later reported, however, that the Clintons have played fast and loose to stave off hefty estate taxes on their own personal wealth. “…the two heads of the political dynasty have been seizing on legal but slippery loopholes to minimize taxes on inherited wealth…,” CBS News reported.

 

“Hard Choices”: Don’t read this book

dontread

Haven’t had time to read Hillary’s book, “Hard Choices”? Not to worry. Hardly anybody else will either.

In any case, it’s not meant to be read, but to serve as another way station in Hillary’s inexorable march to a presidential campaign.

Despite the likelihood that it will be a bestseller, it’s a pretty good bet that few people will actually read it cover to cover. Like Thomas Piketty’s 700 page book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” it will be a hit mostly as an empty vessel into which people of all stripes will pour their biases and preconceptions.

The pundits, editorial writers and political junkies will read it, or parts of it, so they can pontificate about it. Politicians will only look in the index to see if they’re mentioned. Curious people will then read the musings of influencers who hold their same world view, reinforcing what they are inclined to believe anyway.

Hillary’s admirers will heap praise on the book and on commentary that treats it with awe, such as Michiko Kakutani’s New York times review that said the book is a “subtle, finely calibrated work.” Her detractors will disparage the book and nod their heads in agreement when reading critical comments, such as Slate’s John Dickerson who called the book ‘low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie … with vanilla pudding as the dessert.”

So if you like Hillary, go ahead and buy the book or go to one of Hillary’s over-hyped book tour events, but don’t bother to read the book. If there’s anything really attention grabbing in it, somebody else will tell you about it.

So far, the only attention-grabbing thing to come out isn’t even in the book, but something Hillary said in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer ahead of the release of “Hard Choices.”

“We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” Clinton said to Sawyer, referring to the hefty legal fees incurred during their White House years. “We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.”

The social media lines lit up in fury after that comment became public.

Commenters noted that Bill Clinton earned $200,000 a year as president, for a total of $1.6 million in the previous eight years. They pointed out that the Clinton’s huge legal debts, largely an outgrowth of Bill Clinton’s misadventures, were paid off with public contributions. And they highlighted that Hillary and Bill immediately leaped into lucrative speaking engagements when Bill’s presidency ended.

Hillary is reported to have raked in $5 million in speaking fees since she left the State Department in early 2013, much of it from speeches billed at $200,000 a pop. Bill has been even more aggressive.

CNN research of Bill Clinton’s financial records in 2013 showed he pulled in $106 million from paid speeches since leaving the White House in January 2001, including $17 million just in 2012. In November 2011, he was paid $750,000 for a single speech to executives and employees of telecom firm Ericsson in Hong Kong and in one Sept. 2006 weekend in the U.K., he collected more than $1,000,0000 for three speeches.

But you didn’t need to read Hillary’s book to learn about all this. So, as Chuck Palahniuk, author of the award-winning novel Fight Club, said in the opening lines of another one of his books, Choke, “If you’re going to read this, don’t bother.”