According to a quick Amazon search, out of the top Republic Presidential Candidates, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain have all released books in 2011. With the books by Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain specifically covering their Presidential bids. Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain have released and done specific events for their books during the major part of the campaign cycle; Tim Pawlenty withdrew after his book flopped; and in June, and Newt Gingrich had his campaign staff quit because they “…didn’t sign up to be hucksters for products for sale”. Until recently none of these candidates had a hope in hell of winning the nomination, yet all continued to campaign long after their poll numbers dipped. This begs the question, are they truly campaigning for President or are these just a donor funded book tours?
Out of all the republican candidates, the most unlikely shill is Ron Paul. Consistently, whether by a conservative or a liberal, Ron Paul is described as someone who genuinely believes what he says, and books are utilized as just another method for him to spread his message. Furthermore, Ron Paul released his book during a lul in the campaign season, and has not appeared on political shows as an author, but as a candidate.Tim Pawlenty launched his Presidential campaign with a book release, and furthermore his book is also entirely full of policy material, and was possibly meant as some sort of accompaniment to his campaign. However, launching a book is an entirely legitimate way of propelling yourself onto the national stage, and Pawlenty retired when his poll numbers dipped. Pawlenty didn’t spend donor money continuing a campaign that was going nowhere, and while partially guilty, is nowhere close to the next three we shall meet.
Michelle Bachmann and her new book came to my attention this week when she was introduced on Meet the Press not as a Presidential Candidate, but as an author (admittedly while on the meet the candidates series). Her book has nothing to do with the Presidential run, and is being released right smack back in the middle of the campaign, in the calm before the storm. Frankly I don’t find it completely egregious to launch a book while your name is out there, however Bachmann’s campaign has been going nowhere for many months, if not the entire time. She has been consistently low in the polls and has not been perceived as a viable candidate for an incredibly long time. Could it be that she has continued her campaign purely so that it overlaps with her book launch? Surely it would not have been impossible for her to push back the release so that she could give her undivided attention to her Presidential run? Even now she is doing speaking engagements purely to promote her book and not her Presidential campaign.
Herman Cain is in a similar situation to Bachmann. At the very moment in which he rocketed up the polls in late October, he was taking a break from his Presidential campaign to promote his new book. A book entirely devoted to his presidential run and nothing else. It would make sense if he released this book similarly to Tim Pawlenty, as a method of introducing himself to America at large. Or if he delayed his book like Romney did after 08, as a sort of memoir of what could have been. But instead Cain has chosen to launch his book right in the middle of his campaign, and has decided to go on promotions for his book rather than promote his presidential campaign. Even now, with his campaign and reputation in tatters, Cain has chosen to let himself be introduced on talk shows as the author of “This is Herman Cain!”.
Newt Gingrich is the master of turning Presidential campaigns into cash. Gingrich has done this many many times. And as Rachel Maddow has pointed out, with Gingrich’s recent surge in the polls has come a veritable litany of events on his campaign website promoting his dvds and books and other paraphernalia. Gingrich has used his Presidential candidate platform to promote mail scams, fiction novels, documentaries etc. And as outlined in the introduction, had his entire campaign staff walk out on him in June because they refused to be part of his money machine.
Of course many of these candidates may be genuine, and have genuine ideas for their country. However, they should not be hawking merchandise during a Presidential campaign. Making money off a name is one thing, and that is why I have no problem with what Mitt Romney did after his campaign. Nor is using books and merchandise to make a name for yourself necessarily wrong, such as what Tim Pawlenty did. However going on publicity events for your own merchandise while you are meant to be campaigning for President is not kosher. Not while donors are picking up the tab.