By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘We Are Trying To Do What’s Right’The rising tide of political books being prepared by publishers ahead of the United States’ November 6 midterm elections suddenly has taken on the dynamics of a riptide.
Copies of Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House (Simon & Schuster, September 11) and excerpts from the text were obtained by media outlets on Monday.
By Tuesday, the book—still a week from release—had become the parallel story in US news cycles to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill.
And late Wednesday (September 5), the story has been sharply amplified by something highly unusual in American journalism: The New York Times has published an unsigned op-ed, I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration. As is explained in an editor’s note, the Times’ editorial team has vetted the essay for its veracity and has verified that it’s the work of “a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us.”
Briefly from the op-ed, the voice of this highly placed Trump associate:
“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t. The result is a two-track presidency.”
At the time of our publication of this article, Times op-ed editor Jim Dao is reported to have said the newspaper knows of no direct connection between the arrival of the op-ed piece and the coming release of the Woodward book on September 11.
But officials at Simon & Schuster confirm to Publishing Perspectives that international publishers aren’t waiting. More than 10 foreign rights sales already have been secured for Fear: Trump in the White House. They include:
- English/UK: Simon & Schuster UK
- Arabic: All Prints
- Czech: Bourdon
- Dutch: Prometheus
- French: Le Seuil
- German: Rowohlt
- Hebrew: Yedioth
- Japanese: Nikkei
- Lithuanian: Baltos
- Polish: Foksal
- Portuguese/Brazil: Todavia
Woodward, of course, is one of the most acclaimed American investigative journalist-authors, with at least 18 other titles from Simon & Schuster to his name, including All the President’s Men and The Final Days with Carl Bernstein, both about Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal that brought down his presidency.
And in another extraordinary aspect of these developments, Woodward has let it be known that most of his interviews for Fear—hundreds of hours—are on tape.
When Donald Trump protested that he hadn’t been asked to give an interview for the forthcoming book, Woodward and The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake for The Fix released an 11-minute audiotape and transcript of a conversation with Trump.
In it, the president concedes that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had indeed suggested that Trump might agree to an interview with Woodward, who says he made as many as six attempts to get his interview request to the president.
The tape of the exchange from The Washington Post by now has had enough plays at various media to focus “the base”—in this case publishing’s consumer base—squarely on this major new title.
Reports of a search inside the White House for Woodward’s sources ricochet from one news medium to another, as seen, for example, from MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace:
"A surreal day in politics… Donald Trump slammed in a devastating new account of his presidency from legendary reporter Bob Woodward. Excerpts from his new book breaking in the Washington Post at the very same time Brett Kavanaugh, faced fierce opposition…" – @NicolleDWallace pic.twitter.com/YABsaDYN5N
— Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) September 4, 2018
Woodward ‘Knows His Methodology’
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, the former secretary of state John Kerry (D-MA)—whose own book, Every Day is Extra was just released Tuesday (September 4) by Simon & Schuster—has made the connection between the depictions being created both by the anonymous White House insider op-ed in the Times and the Woodward book.
Kerry says, “When you recognize that The New York Times does know who it is” in the senior White House ranks writing the op-ed “and you add this to what is in Bob Woodward’s book. Everybody knows he tapes people he talks to … He knows his methodology and his publisher knows his methodology and the lawyers who support both of those, him and the publisher, know the methodology.
“So the credibility level of a president who’s been found now to lie on a daily basis and has a serious problem with truth, that’s the balance here. We have a presidency that is off the rails. We see a president who .. doesn’t know enough to be making the decisions he makes, and we see the evidence in people stealing a presidential document off his desk.”
What Kerry is referring to in his comment about a presidential document is a passage in Woodward’s book, described, among others, by the Post‘s Blake, in which senior officials including the former chief economic advisor Gary Cohn removing paperwork on potential trade or military actions from Trump’s desk so that he won’t see and act on it.
As NPR’s Mara Liasson describes it, the book “shows people close to the president trying to protect him from himself, from his worst instincts, and protect the country from him, whether it was ending a trade deal with South Korea that they thought would damage US national security, starting a war with North Korea, or sitting down for an interview with Bob Mueller.”
While Donald Trump has fired off tweets calling Woodward’s book “total fiction,” it’s interesting that as early as last Thursday, August 30, Trump had apparently foreseen the tidal rush of new and critical books, not just Woodward’s, which, as Publishing Perspectives has been reporting, are positioned to hit the market this autumn. Perhaps tipped off that Woodward’s book would be another rough ride from book industry, Trump folded books into his now-trademark cries of “fake news.” Here’s the tweet:
I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is. Truth doesn’t matter to them, they only have their hatred & agenda. This includes fake books, which come out about me all the time, always anonymous sources, and are pure fiction. Enemy of the People!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018
Heavy Pre-Orders Push Woodward to No. 1
“Enemy of the people” that Donald Trump may want his followers to believe that Bob Woodward is, his Fear: Trump in the White House is standing at No. 1 in books at Amazon.com in hardcover listings. It’s also No. 1 in Amazon’s Kindle Store. It’s also No. 1 in Amazon/Audible’s digital audiobook listings in categories of Freedom & Security, Memoirs, and Historical & Political Figures.
The book, in short, is headed for a release on Tuesday at the very top of the charts.
And The New York Times‘ Dwight Garner, possessed of one of these copies of the book mysteriously “obtained” by media outlets, writes in a review what may be publishing people’s favorite anecdote from the coming book.
“Trump lamented,” writes Garner, “when Twitter, the social media platform on which he dispenses Pez-sized pellets of discourtesy, raised the maximum size of an individual tweet from 140 to 280 characters because, he is quoted as saying, ‘I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters.’
“Somewhere in heaven,” Garner writes, “Papa is wondering if he can’t self-destruct all over again.”
More from Publishing Perspectives on political books is here.
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It includes our extensive preview of Frankfurter Buchmesse. You’ll find that you can access it in PDF here.