Tim Rutten of the LA Times already panned the upcoming Simon & Schuster book “O: A Presidential Novel”–a fictional rendering of Obama’s upcoming 2012 presidential campaign, written anonymously by a supposed political insider with access to Obama–in a review last week. Done deal, right?
Not good enough, Rutten argues in today’s LA Times. There’s something more sinister going on with this book worth noting in a second piece.
Simon & Schuster’s publisher, Jonathan Karp, has claimed that the book “offers some resonant truths about what President Obama is really thinking.” As I noted in The Times’ wholly unfavorable review of “O” last week, “my reviewers’ copy arrived with an unusual letter from … Karp, informing us that the author of this novel ‘is someone who has been in the room with Barack Obama and knows this world intimately. The author wishes to remain anonymous to avoid being pigeonholed or ignored or scorned on the basis of associations, views or background.'”
The author, Rutten notes, has no access to Obama’s inner thoughts, nor is he anonymous anymore. He’s former John McCain aide and ghostwriter Mark Salter.
Salter isn’t just any political operative but one whose connection to the Arizona senator is so close and of such long standing that he’s frequently referred to as McCain’s “alter ego.” He is widely credited with coaxing McCain into retelling the story of his heroic conduct as a prisoner of war, which made the first book on which he collaborated, “Faith of My Fathers,” a memorable political memoir. By all accounts, Salter took McCain’s loss to Obama harder than most of his staff. Since that defeat, he has weighed leaving politics.
He also was frank about what he felt was the senator’s unfair treatment by the media and, particularly, by new-media outlets such as the Huffington Post and Politico. As Salter alleged to Time magazine concerning the media’s role in his candidate’s defeat: “On top of everything, we had a thumb on the scale. It wasn’t right, but it was what it was.”
It isn’t “pigeonholing” to observe that we now understand a great deal more about some of this novel’s characterizations. Obama, for example, is portrayed as arrogant, scornful of the electorate and the political process, and almost petulantly resentful of the demands of office. Salter’s authorship also helps explain passages in which “O” reflects admiringly on his first opponent’s willingness “always [to] put his country first” or one in which he “wished he had his former opponent’s courage, valor, integrity.”
Read the entire piece here.