It's the summer of Hillary Clinton -- but not exactly on her terms.
Clinton had planned a triumphant return to the political arena with the campaign-style rollout of her new memoir, Hard Choices. The book's first printing of 1 million copies showed that her publisher expected a good return on its $14 million advance, especially since Clinton's book tour would receive the kind of blanket coverage accorded a prospective presidential candidate.
But sales of the book have been disappointing, with only about 200,000 hard copies having sold so far. And while Clinton has received extensive media attention, much of it has focused on her missteps, notably her assertion that she and her husband Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House in January 2001.
Still, Clinton has become the most valuable name in the publishing industry this summer, although only in part because of her own memoir. She and former President Clinton have also inspired three other heavily promoted books, all by right-leaning authors: Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas by Ed Klein; Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine by Daniel Halper; and The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of Presidents by Ronald Kessler, parts of which have been leaked ahead of its Aug. 5 release.
Klein’s Blood Feud, in spite of its many dubious claims and some outright fact errors, surpassed Clinton’s memoir recently to become the No. 1 New York Times bestselling nonfiction work. Even after it fell a few spots this week, it still outsold Hard Choices.
"I've been amazed at what a cottage industry it is,” Clinton said of books about her. She made her observation during a recent appearance on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.
“Another book?” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill marveled to the New York Post when asked about Kessler’s work.
Merrill and other Clinton allies are navigating familiar territory. In the summer of 2007, Clinton faced the publication of three major books about her alone or in combination with her husband: A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Carl Bernstein, Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. and For Love of Politics: Inside the Clinton White House by Sally Bedell Smith.
In 2007, Clinton's team tried to dismiss the books and their revelations as nothing new. "Is it possible to be quoted yawning?" her spokesperson Philippe Reines said at the time. But all three books became bestsellers.
This time, Clinton’s allies are working to discredit Halper’s and Kessler’s books in a more aggressive fashion, as they have with Klein’s, dismissing their authors as “despicable” and agenda-driven.
“With Klein, Halper and Kessler, we now have a Hat Trick of despicable actors concocting trashy nonsense,” Merrill charged in an interview with the Washington Examiner. “Their behavior should neither be allowed nor enabled, and legitimate media outlets who know with every fiber of their beings that it is completely made up should not get down in the gutter with them.”
Halper speculated in a recent Politico Magazine column that other counter-offensives have been launched behind the scenes, including a leak of his book in its entirety to hundreds of journalists. (Clinton's office, for its part, has denied any involvement.)
“Why might they leak the book early?” Halper wrote. “The best explanation is so that the book’s contents could come out well before publication and the Clintons can then rely on another standard mode of operation — denouncing any unfavorable allegations as ‘old news.’ ”
But Clinton’s allies insist that they aren’t losing sleep over the new books. If they’re looking to sully Clinton’s reputation, said Adrienne Elrod, communications director at Correct The Record, a pro-Clinton group, “the right-wing’s tactics are ineffective and are not working."
"The anti-Clinton literature industry has been pushing lies and profiting off the Clinton’s for well over two decades,” Elrod said, “yet Bill and Hillary Clinton remain two of the most popular, admired individuals throughout the world.”