The “Market Forces” Behind the Obamas’ Record-Setting Book Deal

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Yves here. How many ways can you spell “payoff”?

By Joshua Weitz, a research associate at the Academic-Industry Research Network and an incoming graduate student in the PhD program in political science at Brown University

Since leaving office President Obama has drawn widespread criticism for accepting a $400,000 speaking fee from the Wall Street investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald, including from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Only a few months out of office, the move has been viewed as emblematic of the cozy relationship between the financial sector and political elites.

But as the President’s critics have voiced outrage over the decision many have been reluctant to criticize the record-setting $65 million book deal that Barack and Michelle Obama landed jointly this February with Penguin Random House (PRH). Writing in the Washington Post, for example, Ruth Marcus argues that while the Wall Street speech “feels like unfortunate icing on an already distasteful cake,” the book deal is little more than the outcome of market forces fueled by consumer demand: “If the market bears $60 million to hear from the Obamas, great.”

For industry insiders, however, the size of the deal has vastly exceeded estimates of a projected final offer. As the leading trade magazine, Publishers Weekly, reported, a week before the announcement one publisher involved in the negotiations estimated that the two books would likely garner a $30 million contract, less than half the accepted bid.

Seeking to make sense of the $65 million figure, some have pointed to the former President’s prior book sales and Clintonesque celebrity status. Since 2001, 1995’s Dreams from My Father and 2006’s The Audacity of Hope—both of which were published by Crown, a division of Random House (now PRH) owned by the German multimedia conglomerate Bertelsmann—have sold roughly 4.7 million copies, undoubtedly yielding substantial profits.

But according to industry insiders the former First Lady’s contribution is a far greater gamble. And despite the President’s successful publishing record the size of the contract remains something of a mystery. At $20 per book, sales of the two books combined would have to exceed 3.25 million copies to match the cost of the advance, and that doesn’t include necessary overhead such as the costs of materials, distribution, and marketing. As one insider stated, “no one expected it to go this high, [with the books selling for] almost double what we might have imagined…”

At this point, a brief review of the relationship between the Obama administration and the companies behind the deal may shed light on the logic underlying this extraordinary bid.

Since the merger of Penguin and Random House in 2013, PRH has been owned jointly by Bertelsmann and the British education and publishing multinational Pearson, PLC. A leading producer of education and testing materials, Pearson has profited substantially from one of President Obama’s major legislative initiatives—Race to the Top (RTTT).

Much like its Bush-era predecessor, No Child Left Behind, RTTT provides competitive funding to K-12 schools based on a range of criteria intended to stimulate higher teacher and student performance. Among the standards for receiving funding under RTTT is the adoption of Common Core (CC) testing, which, in effect, incentivized school districts to hand federal grant money over to private firms that create CC tests.

Backed by the powerful Gates Foundation and pushed heavily by President Obama and then Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, RTTT was met with widespread criticism among parents, teachers, and education scholars for its punitive and test-centric approach to education reform. In July of 2011, outrage over the initiative culminated in a widely publicized march held outside the White House, attendees of which included some of the country’s leading educators, such as Jonathan Kozol and Diane Ravitch.

Despite extensive outcry, including calls for Duncan’s resignation in 2014 from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, two groups that many regard as traditional Democratic constituencies, President Obama continued to voice support for Duncan and RTTT. When Duncan finally resigned in late-2015, Obama praised Duncan’s record, while not-so-subtly infantilizing his critics: “Arne has done more to bring our educational system—sometimes kicking and screaming—into the 21st century than anybody else.”

But if RTTT was a failure in the eyes of the country’s educators, it was a remarkable success for the testing companies. Between 2010, when RTTT first took effect, and 2014 demand for tests in the U.S. grew from $1.6 to $2.5 billion. Few firms benefitted from the rise of standardized testing in the United States as much as Pearson. According to an analysis by CNBC from 2010 to 2014 Pearson received more contracts than any other company in the industry—27 out of 128 in total. As Elaine Weiss noted in a 2013 report published by the Economic Policy Institute, in the state of Tennessee, one of the top recipients of RTTT awards, state funds flowing to Pearson increased threefold, from roughly $7 to $22 million between 2009 and 2013.

While the Obamas’ deal is unique for the amount of money involved, outsized book contracts between politicians and industries they’ve benefitted has precedent. In a recent report issued by the Roosevelt Institute, the study’s authors, Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen, argue that the mainstream approach to money in politics fails to recognize major sources of political spending. Among the least appreciated avenues for political money, they argue, are payments to political figures in the form of director’s fees, speaking fees, and book contracts. They note, for example, an apparent quid pro quo between former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, and telecommunications firms:

Newt Gingrich, a major player in the critical Telecommunications Act of 1996, had a history of ties to organizations in this arena from his earliest days as a politician. He also profited from book contracts proffered by vertically integrated concerns anchored in the industry.

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  1. Roger Smith

    This is a really great article, thanks for sharing. In my head I had not even given this deal a second thought, assuming that billionaires throw all kinds of cash around like it is nothing generally anyways.

  2. Dean

    In addition to being the undisputed worldwide leader in all things war, the US ranks first in another category too:

    Converting bribes and corruption -whether lobbying, campaign contributions, speaking fees, book advances, as ‘legitimate’ activities or payments- (with the help of the professional class and compliant media).

  3. Quanka

    +1 to Dean and Yves opening comment. How many ways to spell legalized corruption – I hadn’t made the connection b/w the publishing companies and the common core testing companies. Makes perfect sense when you consider Kaplan as the beta in this specialized corner of Flexian-stan.

    1. rusti

      I’m not sure I understand why PRH feels any obligation to hold up their end of any “deal”. What might they hope to get from Obama at this point? Or is it more about establishing a precedent for current/future politicians that PRH will lavishly reward anyone who uses their power to help them out?

      1. Jesper

        My guess is that PRH is playing the long game -> the ‘cost’ of keeping the agreement outweighs the benefit of being seen as a reliable ‘partner’ in future endeavours (reputational damage). But maybe with some luck the quarterly short-term thinking will come into play also here and someone will cut those kind of costs as well…….

        1. clarky90

          Great comment!

          Re. “The Long Game”. The “inability” of World politicians/buisnesspeople (it is happening here in NZ too) to play a long game has been the crux of my unhappiness with “our leaders”. Their motivation always seems to be immediate gratification- next quarter profits…..etc. When I an a snarky state of consciousness I equate them to to the spoiled, sugar-crazed, toddler who cannot fall asleep.

          BUT, suddenly, indisputably, we see that they CAN be patient. They can think strategically. They can imagine and prepare for the future. They have finally conquered their murderous impulses and are able to act diplomatically and with dignity! They can now play the long game!

          That is the good news. It is fantastic to see people “grow”.

          The bad news is,…………

      2. diptherio

        Come on, rusti, use your imagination. They are not paying for what they will get from Obama, they’re paying for services rendered. This was always part of the deal. Plus, as you say, it sets a good precedent for other politicos: do favors for Pearson and get ridiculous book advances. See how that works?

        1. J.Fever

          That is for sure, and for certain.
          Man, the hippies really f’d the pooch.
          Can’t wait for the red giant.

      3. NotTimothyGeithner

        Future corruption is important. In a way, its not about the next President as much as the back benchers with delusions of adequacy. If Obama can get $65 million (I wonder if this was symbolic), a key vote can get a nice advance for a vote here and there especially if they blow up on tv similar to Obama or Liz Warren.

        Most politicians are surprisingly cheap when it comes to actual payments, but the expectation they can cash in is important.

      4. sgt_doom

        It’s called a payoff. And look at the majority shareholders behind these dudes, it is always the Big Four investment firms: Vanguard, BlackRock, State Street, and Fidelity (the others you may see will be the front-type groups, like Capital Group, and when you drill down further you get the Big Four once again).

    2. skippy

      Common Core was always about getting an IP on education and thus monopolize a bottleneck for endless rent extraction.

      disheveled…. CC seems to be a reference to a core feature of neoliberalism and not education… but we know how these semantic games are played…

      1. Sue

        How about the euphemistic Race To The Top Program? The obedient student aligns herself with some dubious knowledge at a reflectiveness-less consumption pace under the expectation of social mobility. Later on,high school already behind, the collegiate pays a price with a lifetime student loan debt which skips her grave as a special delivery to her relatives . BTWY I remember in the early 90s taking my college economics’ courses in Europe-textbooks like Samuelson’s and the likes. Can you believe how many hundred thousand of students have consumed for decades all over the world this sort of semi-science fiction economics? A lot to think about!!!

        1. skippy


          I’ve recently opined on the decadal environmental conditioning you speak of elsewhere, students that for environmental reasons might be 2nd or 3rd rate wrt maths or physics going into MBA’s or Kantian economics and the results of that… sorta like economic refugees going into the military.

          Don’t be too hard on Samuelson, it was consensus at the time, and at least he was not a money crank, because banning ideals is a form of totalitarianism lest we all become Hayek et al.

          Difficult to be broad without becoming too abstract within the currant environment w/ copious amounts of data but the optics to define such is still up for grabs.

          disheveled…. akin to breeding out the competition methinks.

          1. David Barrera

            “Don’t be too hard on Samuelson, it was consensus at the time, and at least he was not a money crank, because banning ideals is a form of totalitarianism lest we all become Hayek et al”
            Be sure that when a particular dogma is ubiquitously taught in US and public universities overseas-at the expense precisely of very much any other significantly different political economy alternatives and historic discussions- what one faces is the impossibility for any idealism to emerge. This explains in the 90s and early 2000s the mushrooming of book titles like The End Of Ideology or The Beginning of the End of History, etc. After all, this is an apparent contradictory loop and what is and was an ideology has been seen as a scientific inevitability.

            1. skippy

              My thought was at least he was not a money crank, tho Samuelson did take on the far far right – The economist Paul Samuelson, in a reminiscence of Hayek published last December, was more dismissive still. “Where are their horror camps?’ he asked, referring to right-wing bugaboos like Sweden, with its generous welfare spending. Almost 70 years after Hayek sounded his alarm, ‘hindsight confirms how inaccurate its innuendo about the future turned out to be.”

              That does not mean I agree with other aspects, just leery of using the same methods, some have used, shaping the debate.

              1. David Barrera

                He was not a money crank. Had he been one, his publisher’s textbook would have not been a long-lasting international bestseller. Very fitting. Give me license to take an enlightening historic and religious leap. St Anselm and his proof of god existence did not fall within the domain of a theological crank. Very church-fitting, although not my kind of virtuoso.

  4. kurtismayfield

    It seems that the book deal is a common payoff for our political class.

    Andrew Cuomo:

    In all, Cuomo has made $783,000 from HarperCollins for his book. The book sold 3,200 copies since it was published in the fall of 2014, according to tracking company NPD BookScan.

    Deval Patrick:

    According to Neilsen BookScan, Patrick’s first book, “A Reason to Believe,’’ has sold 9,445 copies in hardcover since coming out last April. And for that, Random House gave the governor a whopping $1.3 million advance.

    1. Bawb the Revelator

      I believe, Kurtis, the late Gore Vidal used to complain about America no longer reading [THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA.] Bertelsmann’s education hustle will survive Betsy Devos’ evangelism to “charterize” the Public School system – which, btw, predates the US Constitution by 130 years. No Matter: Surely Bertelsmann can and will diversify into Netflix sit-coms and similar growth industries.

  5. neighbor7

    It’s long been known that many (most) big book deals don’t come close to earning back advances. Great post for showing what else may be going on.

    Yes, $20 x 3.25mil = $65 million, but aside from neglecting fixed production costs, that doesn’t account for approx 50% discount to trade/wholesalers. So…

    1. J Bank

      While this was a great article, and it appears that conflicts are evident, I think we should reserve judgement until we see the sales numbers.

      The distaste for Trump globally could lead to this book being an international success, which could blow the expectation on sales out of the water. We’re making bold claims with only half of the data right now.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Very few people actually read these political books regardless of the author and current political climate. ‘Sales’ are often generated by politically-affiliated institutions buying them up and distributing them for free. There’s a reason you see so many books of this kind in the remaindered bin at bookstores.


    There’s also the question of what the theme(s) of the books will be. They could be paint-by-numbers autobiographies, or accounts of the 8 years in the White House. Then again, they could be (suspecting Michelle’s moreso than Barack’s) political advocacy tomes, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they push for policies that coincide with the publisher’s interests. Plus, I’m sure the publisher is banking on think tanks and other political organizations buying up copies. I’m sure CAP’s already put down for a hefty pre-order.

    1. ambrit

      I’m sure the holding company that owns the publisher has more than made the advance payment in profits from the mentioned “testing” materials. It’s a kickback pure and simple. The “O”‘s should be languishing in jail right now, not on the beach. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the actual publishing company can “creatively” use the real world losses from these sweetheart deals to offset any profits they make from other ventures so as to reduce their taxes. Win, win, win! (Poor stockholders get it in the neck, since their expected dividends and share value rises disappear down a Presidential sized memory hole.) There are so many ways that an inventive shareholder insurgency could use this to foment “creative destruction” at the C-suite level of these businesses.
      One idea that popped into my mind just now was a stunt to put up online, when the books themselves actually see the light of day, pictures of all the victims of the “O” mans’ drone murders. When “O” intones “Hope for America,” we can see dead children, everywhere.

      1. perpetualWAR

        You can also attribute the rising homelessness to Obama. 14 million unlawful foreclosures….and all those former homeowners either rented or fell into homelessness. Thanks, “O.”

        1. J.Fever

          2008 is too soon forgotten.
          But not to those it decimated, as myself.
          Obama was my champion…in words/campaigns don’t matter prose.
          My eye-opener to this truly corrupt system.
          Hope and change…HAHAHAHAHAH! Schwarzenegger laugh from the only true barbarian movie-“Conan, The Barbarian”.

      2. Bawb the Revelator

        But, Ambrit, the O’s have access to better lawyers than those Innocence Project folks had.

        1. ambrit

          Oh my, O prophet of the Embuggered, the ways that the word “better” in your comment can be construed.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      They will probably be as vapid and meandering as the usual Obama speech.

      A few predictions:

      -the primary villain will be leftist strawmen
      -moderate Republicans will be the real heroes
      -Obama will have fended off attacks from both the right and THE LEFT
      -a few stories about people helped under ACA
      -ordering a bombing from behind a desk will be portrayed as bold and heroic
      -60 Senate votes will be a major theme
      -a major rewrite of the history of DADT’s repeal will be published
      -stories about meeting cool celebrities and how people told Obama how much he meant to them.
      -infantilization of the voters with explanations of how Obama tries to teach voters the way he explains issues to his kids.

      1. ambrit

        I used to feel sorry for Chelsea. Not anymore. I do feel some empathy for those two girls though. How mind destroying it must be to live in the shadows of two of the greatest traitors in American history.

        1. David Carl Grimes

          Twenty years from now, they’re going to realize that their parents weren’t so great. Maybe they’ll finally run into someone whose home was foreclosed or lost his job because of Obamometer’s policies. Or maybe not. At that level of wealth, they can insulate themselves pretty well. Maybe they will become finely trained grifters like their parents.

  7. JTMcPhee

    Wow, yet another poke in the eye of the public with the usual sh!t-covered end of a sharp stick! And the ha-ha smirks of another pair of slicks.

    And we are privileged, here, to meet and talk about these and all the other evidences of “corruption,” or “how the system actually works.” And to amass our bits of indignation (or cues for where to invest), and study them, judiciously as we must, and wag our fingers and shake our heads in amazement at the audacity of it all.

    One wonders where, in all this smart-people detecting and displaying and digesting of what might be termed ‘badness’ by our Betters, there will appear any notion of “remedy” or prescription for therapies that will point in the direction of an end to the badness — other than via some end-stage collapse of the planet’s habitability for most humans, while the sh!tes who run the giant looting and skimming scams and strategies will live out their lives, free of consequence or retribution or restitution, in the private lands of Impunity and Immunity, live “comfortably” in the extreme, and get to die (if liberal application of money does not result in physical immortality as several of them plan to achieve) in comfort too, succored by kindly nurses and doctors and caregivers who can’t help but be altruistic and decent because of their wiring and training.

    From what I can see, all through the History of Civilization there has been deadly, empire-killing corruption. At a few times and places, this “slack in the system” has gotten milled down to a level that is “tolerable” to most of us very adaptable creatures, with our ability to rationalize and ‘go with the flow.’ But our inventive brothers and sisters always — ALWAYS — are inventing new ways to carve a larger slice off the carcass, to dominate their less grasping and “intelli-bent” siblings. “We,” who perceive and judiciously study the motions and excesses of the Elites, and paw them over looking for, I guess, “comprehensive understanding” — do we have any insights on what might be done to alleviate the suffering and destruction, and make the remedies stick, other than in limited situations and locales and over short periods? Where, in the present system so well limbed here, are the means and opportunities to effectuate any kind of change that will produce any other outcome?

    “The fix is (always) in.” How do ordinary people fix that? Especially since so many hope to get on the gravy train while it still rolls, themselves? Is Futilitarianism the only theological response that makes any sense at all?

    1. ambrit

      Loath as I am to mention them, the Libertarian types talk a good game. As for “execution,” well, when Timmy McVeigh took direct action, in true libertarian style, he was vilified and eventually executed for his pains. This looks to be the heart of the “liberal” conundrum. How does one reconcile civilized conduct with an uncivilized opponent?
      Your point is central. Once the who’s, and what’s, and how’s are delineated, what actions will provide relief? Further, who has the moral and physical courage to go and do it? The story goes that when it came time for Timmy McVeigh to be executed, he eschewed the frills and said; “Let’s get this over with.” There’s the Nathan Hale of our times.

        1. ambrit

          I’m in good company it seems.
          The Oklahoma Bombing episode reeks of every sin and vice known to man. One single example; the Aryan Bankrobbers.

        2. Tyronius

          Timothy and Terry missed.

          In their self declared war on a Justice Department that was anything but just, they failed to understand that the Feds were lackeys for the rich and powerful and the system of economic peonage put in place to enslave the rest of the citizens.

          If they’d wanted to strike at the heart of evil, they should have gone to Jupiter Beach or the Hamptons.

          The Great Experiment in democracy has failed. It’s failed to rein in the worst impulses of greed and power.

          Book deal payoffs are just the tip of the iceberg, of course. America is run by the almighty corporation and its major shareholders. Justification will be manufactured by the corporate media, no matter what the transgression.

          The consequences and costs of endless financial crises will be borne by the taxpayers- precedent has been set!- and the resulting impoverishment of the American middle class will be seen as a byproduct, rather than the object of the looting by the upper class.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Which Libertarians, again? That is such a confused and confusing category: “The 24 types of libertarians,”, and then the antithesis, “24 types of authoritarians” (since many types of libertarians can’t ever lose a single point),

        And there is a weak, small voice that identifies the varieties of progressives in the same frame:

        And of course our proctors published a nice 6-parter to let us know what a “journey into a libertarian future” would likely look like:

        1. ambrit

          I get your point, but I’m feeling contrary tonight so it’s a case of “Live on your knees or die on your feet.”

      2. Anon

        I believe it was reported (by a media witness) that he (McVeigh) raised a middle finger to those assembled behind the window. Oklahoma City or Twin Towers, anger at the “establishment” kills innocents.

        A function of our random justice system? An inability to effectively organize against corruption? Or simply all part of the American way?

        1. ambrit

          Anger at this “establishment” is warranted. If the Droner in Chief could look on passively while innocents a half a world away were being blown into pink mist, how does one bring the reality of that pain home to such stunted personalities? Such a philosophy as is being enacted by the Drone Murderers is almost identical to that of the old Anarchists; “There are no innocents.” So, we get blowback, like the concert suicide bomber in London, or the Ur external terror attack, 9/11. Heaven help us all when one or another of the “non state terror organizations” obtains usable weaponized drones, or, the most to be feared, a nuke. As the “officially sanctioned” terrorists flying the drones have proven, there is just about no comprehensive defense against them. Now, when the other side figures it out, there will be H— to pay.

          1. J.Fever

            That is so true.
            My thinking is we will be in a “Logan’s Run” existence by then, based on credit.

      3. different clue

        In what way were ill-paid Federal workers and pre-school-age children an opponent? An opponent of what? An opponent of whose?

        1. ambrit

          This goes back to the philosophy now reigning in the halls of the beltway; “There are no innocents, just “combatants” and their “associates.”” A very old and common strategy in warfare during the ancient days was to despoil the enemies’ countryside, thus depriving her of adequate foodstocks. In Vietnam, the same theory undergirded the defoliation campaign, which is still bearing poisoned fruit. These were viewed through the lens of the theory that coercive violence was the exclusive prerogative of the State. Counter State movements attempt to assume the same rights as the State being opposed. Hilarity, and much suffering, ensues.

    2. Fiery Hunt

      I hear ya, JT.
      And depressing as it may be, no,there is no remedy to the endlessly corrupt hunger for money and power by those addicted to it.

      But perhaps wisedom, neigh enlightenment, comes from seeing it, calling it by its name and continuing to refuse to condone it.

      Futile? Yes.
      Meaningful toward building a personal morality that’s more humane? Yes too.

    3. lyman alpha blob

      … do we have any insights on what might be done to alleviate the suffering and destruction…

      Malcolm X enumerated our two choices decades ago. The ballot hasn’t been working very well and it’s the elites themselves who prefer option two against the rest of us. Anyone from the managed class who tries #2 is usually liquidated pretty quickly as ambrit pointed out.

      Christopher Dorner
      found out the hard way too.

      Trying to get rid of the violent without resorting to violence one’s self is quite the dilemma.

    4. perpetualWAR

      Just finished reading a book on Marie Antoinette. We seem to forget the Reign of Terror actually wasn’t that long ago (or at least I did.) The same situation is occurring now with the unequal distributio of wealth. Only their “Let them eat cake” moments occur with more frequency.

      I don’t think the elite have much more time until the populace will be fed up enough to begin to demand change.

  8. funemployed

    I’ve spent considerable time investigating several of Pearson’s “assessments” as psychometric instruments, as well as their broader impacts on educational practice and student “success.”

    Won’t bore you with the details, but they are absolute jokes, and don’t even meet the most basic standards of reliability, validity, minimal bias, and ethical use. Their ONLY argument is to infantilize critics, even when those critics have serious and unassailable arguments using basic reason, research, theory, and evidence.

    Moreover, they are deeply unpopular, and the communities that are affected and provide the bulk of educational spending are never invited to the table to make decisions.

    Education is a massive cash cow. Public annual spending approaches that of the department of defense (though only 10% from the fed).

    In short, their whole business model is based on corruption and dishonesty, and it is deeply harmful to education and society. Very glad to see this coming to light here.

    1. Arizona Slim

      A standardized test almost kept me out of first grade. It was one of those reading readiness tests that kids take at the end of kindergarten.

      Well, little ole Slim noticed that something was off about the questions. They just didn’t make sense to my five-year-old brain. So, I had the temerity to question the questions.

      The teacher responded by getting angry and flunking me.

      Bad move. That one made my mother REALLY mad.

      She stomped into that kindergarten and demanded to see the test. To her everlasting credit, Mom decided that it was a flawed test and enrolled me in first grade. Guess who was the first kid to learn how to read in that first grade class. Me, that’s who.

      I remain an avid reader to this day.

      1. funemployed

        Good on your mom. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some version or another of this story. Flunking 5 year olds is basically always unethical, not to mention pathetically immature on the part of the flunkers. Five-year-old brains develop different skills at different rates, but are nearly uniformly more functional than 35 year old ones, and particularly good at seeing holes in 35 y/o logic.

      2. ambrit

        Oh yes. One reason I supported our home schooling our three children was my memories of having to repeat the third grade when we moved back to Miami from Pasadena. It seems the State of Florida considered ones’ age and putative emotional group embedment as trumping academic ability. Can’t let the kiddies get out of step, can we.

  9. dontknowitall

    The article mentions speakers fees as one of the ways political money is passed on to politicians and so the 3.2 million Obama ‘earned’ for speaking at a conference in Italy last month might be considered eye-watering. I would agree that Obama is at least ten times less boring a speaker than Hillary (who makes $250k per speech) though these days I can’t stand the sight of him or her.

  10. Pat

    I do have to say that the Obamas actions in the less than six months following their helicoptering out of the White House point out that he/they were on the take all along. Even one of my most ardent Obama loving acquaintances got it, and finally understood my point that getting rid of Citizens United only cleans up a small section of our corrupt political system. (How you gonna keep them representing the farm, when the TPTB can offer you a retirement that puts you in the top 2%).

    1. BradK

      I’ve heard that it comes with a temporary tattoo for your forehead which says “Tool”. If you actually make it to the end there’s a coupon for a permanent one, along with a ticket to see Rachel Maddow.

      Not to worry though, several million copies will be bought by the followers of the elites. To be conspicuously displayed on the coffee table, the office desk, or the dash of the Range Rover. Never to be actually opened of course.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Reminds me of what my aunt said about Bill Clinton’s book, My Life, which she owned. If she paid full price, she certainly regretted it, because her two-word summary of the book was:

        “It’s BORING!”

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Aren’t “third way” types inherently boring people? They are champions of the status quo. Their thought process amounts to borrow from different philosophies, mix, call it a success, and talk about the latest HBO show. Ideas and policy outcomes are subservient to process.

          What are the grand ideas of the Clintons or Obama that aren’t milquetoast versions of what half the electeds promised at some point anyway? Its not surprising to see they are boring on paper.

          For all of Ike’s “boring” nature, he was the Supreme Allied Commander and his farewell address is still quoted. The idea of a general reminding everyone he is a symbol of waste is powerful and interesting.

      2. ambrit

        I heard that the signed copies come with a blanket Presidential Pardon. That could be of some use.

    2. funemployed

      Not I, but someone will buy it for me. I will thank him/her sincerely, and then sell it online for below market value. All hail the interwebs.

    3. Elizabeth

      I never bought any of Obama’s books nor did I vote for him because I thought he was a con man and an empty suit from the get go. He’s getting his payoff now after 8 years of screwing over this country and has added untold misery to millions of Americans. I certainly don’t plan to buy either his or Michelle’s books. My wish is that they both fade into oblivion.

      1. ambrit

        Some of the black people I interact with here Down South have had their eyes opened by how opulent a lifestyle the “O”s are living post White House. One young woman I work with now says; “He’s just another of those con men. They should all be in jail.” One older woman said sometime last year; “He looks black but acts white.” Class consciousness is hard to inculcate, but it can be done. Often, it happens by itself.

        1. Darn

          An Oreo? You may have seen memes about April’s Harvard-Harris poll which shows Bernie popular with black people, and less so with whites. More interesting was the crosstabs showed he is now almost as popular as Hillary Clinton with them. Good news for 2020.

          1. ambrit

            Probably more popular because the black population of America has not only the racialist past and its’ continuing effects to deal with, but also the harmful effects of the deteriorating economy, for the “lower classes,” which is more highly represented within the racial based groupings. Socialism should resonate much more with the poorer groups than the self deluding “middle class” and “middle class want to bes.” As long as Sanders shows vocal support of policies that help the “less fortunate,” he will continue to have strong support among all of the “downtroden.” The rise in Sanders support to levels comparable to support levels for HRM HRC is an indication of change in the socio-political orientations of the poor in general. Around my home town, the local black churches are trying to fend off some serious reputational challenges. For good or ill, many of the younger black people I speak to evince an escape from the cultural straitjackets of the traditional churches.
            The Sanders surge might bode well for 2020, but I’ve my eye on the 2018 races, especially at the state levels. If Trump is a harbinger of the “End of Days,” as is constantly propagandized, then why aren’t there many “End of Days Party” candidates on the radar screen?

      2. Darn

        I expected nothing from Obama and that he would be like Bill Clinton; when I was given “Dreams from My Father” as a gift it fell open at a passage about how great the free market was, so I never read it. He got a lot more done than I expected — the stimulus and Obamacare. Both should have been a lot better, but the country would be in far worse shape than it is now if he hadn’t. I had expected he would do nothing.

  11. JA

    On the subject of subsequent payment for services rendered by politicians, Macron has already said he only wants to spend a short time in politics before going back into business. Already lining up the post-president lollipops less than a month after being elected.

  12. Optimader

    I did the math in my head the day this deal was announced, im glad someone drilled down in to it for grins

    Seeing if he will have little time to actually write anything while he conducts an adhoc domestic &foreign policy, I suggest a pithy title:
    The Audacity

        1. different clue

          He delayed war with Iran. If Trump isn’t able to get war with Iran re-instated, then he may have prevented it. Obama was under the sway of many, but AIPAC was not one of them.

          1. Darn

            Quite right, I should have included that in my post above to Elizabeth. The Iran deal. A major reason not to want Trump to beat Clinton is Trump may start a war with Iran. But, Clinton’s Syrian no-fly zone policy is even worse unless it’s a bluff.

            1. ambrit

              The Syria tragedy will play out to the degree that either candidate is or was captured by the Neo-cons. Thus, HRM HRC would have probably have us knee deep in it right now. The leading indicator now is what happens in al-tanf, inside Syria down by the Irak and Jordan borders.

  13. David Carl Grimes

    Given wholesale prices and trade discounts, break-even volumes on this book deal could be in the order of 5 to 7 million copies.

    1. Jim Haygood

      No reason this mountainous pile of pulp can’t be distributed to the needy to heat their homes.

      To quote the great George H. W. Bush: “Message: I CARE!

  14. RUKidding

    Thanks for the post. Color me utterly unsurprised. It was clear from the moment that Obama hired Rahm Emannuel to be his hippy punching attack dog that this man was only out for himself and how much he could rake in. And boyohboy has he proven VERY adept at raking in the big tubman$!

    Funny how Obama always portrayed himself as being this sort of weakish nerdish subservient dude who somehow just didn’t have the cojones to really tackle the mean bully Republicans, while making the mean bully Republicans appear to be the ones who “prevented” Obama from doing all the glorious, splendid things that Obama REALLY wanted to do… but just couldn’t. Oh those mean bully Republicans.

    Yeah, right. Dude knew exactly what he was doing and had his pockets lined all along the way, and now is doing the BIG TIME cashing in. How long until he belongs to the Three Commas club?? Because you can’t throw serious shade until that Third Comma happens. What are the bets? One year? Five years? Guaranteed that third comma is on it’s way.

    And btw Obama is probably celebrating the Trump victory bc Obama’s fans – and they are legion – will cling and grasp to how faaaaaabulous Obama was and how saaaaaad it is that we have to put up with that lout, Trump. Of course, we probably wouldn’t have to put up with that lout, Trump, if Obama had, you know, actually done the job that his constituents voted him in to do. But Obama worked for Wall Street and Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein and the MIC, not for the rubes, like you and me.

    That’s bloody obvious but has been so since Day One (or maybe two). Ugh.

    1. David Carl Grimes

      If you think about it, Obama was a better conman than Trump because a lot of liberals still don’t think they’ve been conned.

      1. RUKidding

        Agree most don’t think they’ve been conned & get really pissed off if you point it out to them. Proceed w caution.

      2. Ian

        My stepmother among them. It is painful to listen to whenever she opens her mouth about politics or world events. Fortunately we have come to an understanding where she doesn’t want to know and I don’t want to have to hear about it. And I consider her a reasonably intelligent and compassionate human being.

    2. funemployed

      New favorite interaction. Person: “Oh, I miss the Obamas so much.” Me: “Obama is guilty of multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Them: “well” Me: lists several of such war crimes and crimes against humanity. Point out that he would spend rest of life in prison if was president of Kazakhstan. Them: looks at walls and ceiling.

  15. Deloss Brown

    Forgive me, Yves, or don’t. It’s your blog.


    If you don’t believe me look at the front page of the New York Times.

    The new President is a businessman named Donald Gump, and as fast as he can, he will roll back the evil, corrupt, bad policies of Barack Obama!

    The Keystone XL Pipeline will go through!

    We (the U. S. of A.) have withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement! As I write this some genial, likeable genius named Pruitt from the government is on television lecturing the lying rascals from MSNBC, CNN and other “news organizations” about their incompetence, stupidity and gullibility! (Serves ’em right!)

    Only goodthinkers will be allowed to vote in the next election!

    The Supreme Court will be purged of radical, activist judges!

    And–this is mixed news–net neutrality will be eradicated! Ultimately this will make it harder for NC to communicate with its readers, but, what the hell, you can’t have everything.

    I won’t say “Breathe easier,” because, if Mr. Gump has his way, breathing at all will become iffy. But at least you needn’t worry about the further corrupt actions of Barack Obama!

    1. funemployed

      Mayhaps Mr. Grump’s heart will grow three sizes some day. And all the whos down in whoville will be happy someday.

    2. WeakenedSquire

      He is still inserting himself in the public conversation while jetting around the world pocketing exorbitant sums rather than setting an example of how to “resist,” as perhaps he might, and since the current president is proving to be such a deranged ass, Obama and Hillary Clinton are the essentially the only alternative models that most of the public knows. So it is necessary to continue to emphasize that however bad it gets with Trump, going back to the regular Democrats is not an option either. And that means repeated outrage at Obama’s failings.

      1. David Carl Grimes

        Obama recently bought the DC house they are living in for $8M. This indicates that he plans to stay in DC way past his daughter’s graduation from high school in 2019.

      2. Deloss Brown

        “Repeated outrage at Obama’s failings” (begging your pardon–we are actually on the same side–but shouldn’t it be “persistent outrage” or “zombie outrage?”) isn’t going to get us anywhere. Obama is not the President, and never will be again. Elizabeth Warren might. Bernie Sanders might. Much of the public has heard of both of them. I hope they are not too “regular,” depending on what that means.

        Personally, I hope Gump’s heart grows 10 sizes, and that soon. But it won’t.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          We need constant outrage at bad actors. Allowing Obama off the hook creates the illusion all that needs to happen for prosperity and goodness to reign is simply to dump Trump.

          Trump is not a singular event, but the result of a long chain of actions. Going back to the Obama era will simply produce the next Trump.

  16. E Williams

    Thanks for the link to the Roosevelt Institute report. If we are ever to get money out of politics we will have to address the revolving door and side deals.

    What I don’t see in the speculation about Mr. Obama’s huge advance is conjecture that it could be hush money. Could they be paying him to keep certain facts OUT of his upcoming book?

    With every passing week under He Who Must Not Be Named, I become more and more nostalgic for Obama, despite the shortcomings of his administration. By the time HWMNBN is finished making us great again, we might look fondly on Obama’s era as the time when the country was at its height.

    Between Secrets Revealed and Nostalgia Value, there may be a real market for the Obama book after all.

  17. Stuart Kushon

    Absolutely hilarious. Controversy over the magnitude of a book deal that will be downsized by the fact that the Obama administration, the trump administration and most before that decimated the spending capacity of the people that would buy. Hilarious.

  18. José de Freitas

    “At $20 per book, sales of the two books combined would have to exceed 3.25 million copies to match the cost of the advance, and that doesn’t include necessary overhead such as the costs of materials, distribution, and marketing. ”

    This is an obvious mistake, at 20$ per book, and say. a normal (high-end) 10% royalty, sales would have to be THIRTY-TWO million books, not 3,25 million (which would generate royalties of 6,50 million). It should be 32,5 million copies.

    I think it is fair to say that NO book that the ex-president will publish will reach more than thirty million copies sold…

    (I work in the publishing industry)

    1. Joshua Weitz

      Author here:


      I appreciate the correction. Obviously I do not work in publishing and do not claim to be anything like an expert on publishing (hence my deference to those who do as quoted in Publishers Weekly). Assuming your analysis is accurate, this considerably strengthens my case.

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