Ars Legendi: Want to be President?

Alan Duff

We all know the spelled-out rules if one wants to be president of the United States. You must be a born on American soil and have been a citizen for 14 or more years. You must be at least 35 years old. You must be able to laugh on will. You must be a member of one of the two major parties. You must be, at the very least, a millionaire.

But what about the less obvious rule that has been added in recent years? You must have written a book. Or have a book written under your name, preferably by an excellent ghostwriter.

Over the last 20 years, it’s easy to see the pattern. Presidential hopefuls as they begin running for office seem to have found a hidden formula: Write a book before Election Day, and preferably have it be released a few months beforehand.

Lawrence is always going on about alumni donations, and one great way to generate some money would be to have a Lawrentian who becomes President of the United States. For this reason I will examine a number of rules about books that one should follow if one wants to be the president of the United States.

Why not write a book? Your name-you being a politician and all-is in the papers already because of the election buzz. Everybody wants to know what you really stand for and this is the chance for the electorate to hear it in your own words-as opposed to a speech writer’s-your real feelings about running for president. Unless you have a ghostwriter of course.

You’ll get to spend several chapters telling Americans how you really feel about this election, how you struggled through all those tough situations and how that one personal sports anecdote will help guide America.

The book must also be titled something that has to do with American ideals and growth, while at the same time being vague enough that you could be relating to just about any American. This trend is obvious if you look at the past two decades’ Presidential candidates and who won the elections.

Bill Clinton released his book “Putting People First: How We Can All Change America” two months before the 1992 election. It had all the necessary buzzwords and themes for a good political book: teamwork, change and America. Before the 1996 election he published another book: “Between Hope and History.” While not including the word America or any of its derivatives, it seems that he was able to dodge a bullet by using the power of hope.

This rule, however, can be taken too far and result in a backlash in the public. One book per election cycle is fine. Any more, and you can risk isolating the electorate who, to be honest, just doesn’t have time to read that many books while following the news and watching polls. This is a problem that John McCain faced during the 2008 Presidential election cycle.

Within a one-year period, McCain released two books, overflowing the political market and leaving readers who wanted to get to know the “real” McCain in a conflict of interest over which book to buy. Obama, though, wrote only one book in 2008, which included every single point possible: “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.”

It has words like “American,” “hope” and “dream,” as well as a subtitle. What more could one want? If you want to write a good political book, take it from Obama: Include a subtitle, and include emotion-stirring words  such as those above, and their favorable synonyms.

So what can the law of Presidents writing books for this election cycle tell us? Unfortunately, not a lot. Both Obama and Romney have written books for this election cycle and Romney, like Obama did in 2008, hit all the necessary buzzwords when he published “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.” For now it’s a toss up.

Perhaps as politicians catch up with technology it will be the candidate who makes the new hit reality TV show or YouTube series that wins it, but for a time being there’s at least one place in America that still values books.