By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘The Delay Revives Questions’As Brian Stelter reported at CNN Business Tuesday afternoon (May 3), John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, has had its publication date moved from March 17 to May 12.
The new date is reflected on the 528-page book’s sale page at Simon & Schuster.
Stelter, the network’s chief media correspondent and host of the weekly show Reliable Sources, writes, “The delay revives questions about whether the government is unfairly holding up Bolton’s book for partisan political reasons. ‘I hope it’s not suppressed,’ Bolton said at a public speaking engagement on February 17.”
Reporting by Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt at The New York Times has indicated some of what Bolton’s book reveals from his tenure as Donald Trump’s former national security advisor.
“President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton,” wrote Haberman and Schmidt on January 26 in a story updated on January 28.
“The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.”
And as Stelter lays it out, Bolton’s attorney submitted the manuscript on December 30 for a normal security review prior to publication. The vetting is typical and intended to ensure that no classified material is released in a book.
But, according to a report on February 21 by Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Carol D. Leonnig at the Washington Post, sources indicate that Donald Trump has “has directly weighed in” on the book’s review and “will seek to block the book’s publication.”
Trump and Political Books
Followed by the change in the publication date, it appears, then, that the book is becoming the latest instance in which Trump has tried to interfere with a major publisher’s release of a book in which an author’s criticism is something Trump wants to suppress.
The first instance of this, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, was during the January 2016 publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, when Macmillan’s Henry Holt & Company actually rushed up the publication of the book in response to the cease-and-desist letter sent by Trump’s personal attorney. When Macmillan CEO John Sargent called Trump’s actions “flagrantly unconstitutional” in a ringing staff memo, the publisher became an international industry hero for standing up to that presidential effort at censorship.
And in August 16, you’ll recall, Charles Harder, litigation counsel for the Trump campaign, sent a letter to Simon & Schuster one day prior to publication of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged: An Insider’s Look at the Trump White House, threatening litigation if Simon’s Gallery Books publication wasn’t stopped.
In September 2018 Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House was nearing publication by Simon & Schuster, 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.
On Twitter, Trump would continue to assail the publishing industry and authors for such work, folding them into his general dismissal of various mainstream news media as “fake news” outlets.
Stelter: Bolton Book Process ‘Not Normal’
When CNN inquired about the delayed release date for the Bolton book, Stelter reports, “Bolton’s lawyer said the ‘pre-publication review’ is proceeding and ‘we have nothing to say beyond that.'”
The handling of the book–the contents of which became the focus of controversy in relation to the Trump’s impeachment–and, however the security review is going, Stelter writes, the book’s handling is “not normal.”
While Bolton has been heavily criticized in some quarters, alleged to have withhold testimony to enhance sales of his forthcoming book, the title has found popular interest. The Kindle edition of the book is listed on pre-order at Amazon.com as a “No. 1 New Release” in the Political History category. At this writing it ranks at No. 2 in National and International Security, No. 3 in Political History, and No. 6 in 21st Century History of the United States.
Overall, the American publishing market’s nonfiction sector has continued to be buoyed by strong interest in political books. Indeed, in the November StatShot report from the Association of American Publishers, it was pointed out that a comparatively lower level of revenue for the month in 2019 as opposed to 2018 may have been impacted, in part, by the fact that Michelle Obama’s Becoming (Penguin Random House) had been released in November 2018.
In our periodic checks on newly published or upcoming releases in political books, particularly pertaining to Trump, we see A Citizen’s Guide to Beating Donald Trump, released on Tuesday (March 3, Penguin Random House / Viking). It’s by David Plouffe the former campaign manager for Barack Obama.
And from the other side of the political debate, Charlie Kirk’s The MAGA Doctrine: The Only Ideas That Will Win the Future has also been released by HarperCollins / Broadside Books. Kirk is the founding director of Turning Point USA, described by the publisher as “a national student movement dedicated to identifying, organizing, and empowering young people to promote the principles of free markets, and limited government.”
And in American political books, it’s worth noting that one we’ve mentioned before, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig (Penguin Press) was released on January 21 and today is still on the Amazon Charts after six weeks, now at No. 9 in Most Read nonfiction.
At this writing, it ranks No. 3 in US Presidents and United States Executive Government, and at No. 4 in Political Corruption and Misconduct at Amazon.
And sure to become a work of great interest to many American voters, there’s a March 17 release date in place for Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College by New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman, specializing in Supreme Court articles and legal affairs.
The promotional copy reads, in part, “Twice in the last five elections, the Electoral College has overridden the popular vote, calling the integrity of the entire system into question—and creating a false picture of a country divided into bright red and blue blocks when in fact we are purple from coast to coast.
“Now, as political passions reach a boiling point at the dawn of the 2020 race, the message from the American people is clear. The way we vote for the only official whose job it is to represent all Americans is neither fair nor just. Major reform is needed—now. Isn’t it time to let the people pick the president?”
The publisher is trying to position this one as having appeal to both sides of the political divide: “Even when the popular-vote winner becomes president, tens of millions of Americans—Republicans and Democrats alike—find that their votes didn’t matter. And, with statewide winner-take-all rules, only a handful of battleground states ultimately decide who will become president.”
Without fanfare, the book already has arrived at No. 15 in the Kindle Store–in the category of Democracy.