• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • The Audacity of Obama's Big Book Promo

    After President Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009, U.S. embassies around the world apparently felt that foreigners still did not know enough about him, despite the unprecedented blaze of global publicity surrounding his election. As has been remarked, U.S. public diplomacy in the age of Obama often amounts to the same thing as publicity for the President himself, with American institutions serving as megaphones for his political message.

    Embassies in countries from France to Indonesia decided that the American taxpayer would like to give away copies of Obama’s two books—Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope—for the enlightenment of the locals. In Paris, they were still dishing out copies of the 16-year-old Dreams from My Father as recently as March of this year.

    The State Department’s generosity with public funds to promote Obama’s literary efforts—at a time when it has been closing American libraries overseas to cut costs—was revealed last week by The Washington Times, which reported that State had bought more than $70,000 worth of the two books for Christmas “gratuities” and stocking of “key libraries” abroad.

    A review of the expenditures in a federal database did not reveal any examples of State Department purchases of books by former Presidents George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, according to the Times.

    The State Department defended the book purchases as “standard practice,” which clearly it is not, while White House spokesman Jay Carney called the operation an “embassy-based decision,” which the White House “didn’t have anything to do with.” If that is the case, embassies around the world must be in telepathic contact, considering the timing of the purchases.

    According to the Times, the U.S. embassy in Egypt, for instance, spent $28,636 in August 2009 for copies of Dreams from My Father, on top of an order of more than $9,000 for the book six weeks earlier. About the same time, the U.S. embassy in South Korea spent more than $6,000 to buy copies of the same youthful memoir. A month later, the U.S. embassy in Jakarta shelled out more than $3,800 for hardcover copies of the Indonesian version of The Audacity of Hope.

    Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group, very reasonably said that if the federal government is looking to cut costs, eliminating purchases of Obama’s books would be a good place to start. “It’s inappropriate for U.S. taxpayer dollars to be spent on this,” she said. “This sounds like propaganda.”

    Inappropriate? Yes. Propaganda? Not really. Propaganda would involve advancing U.S. views and policies. This is personal promotion for Obama and his writings. When The Audacity of Hope was published in 2006, The New York Times commented that the book “is much more of a political document. Portions of the volume read like outtakes from a stump speech, and the bulk of it is devoted to laying out Mr. Obama’s policy positions on a host of issues, from education to health care to the war in Iraq.”

    Indeed, the book developed many themes that Obama was to use in his 2008 presidential campaign. Today, foreigners—like most Americans—might be more interested in the 2012 election.

    The data unearthed by The Washington Times reveal only the total amounts spent, not the numbers of books bought or whether the State Department, and thus the taxpayer, got a bargain. Prices quoted by Amazon.com today range from $63.95 for a “collectible” hardcover edition of Dreams from My Father to $0.01 (or one cent before the $3.99 shipping cost) for a used copy of The Audacity of Hope.

    So, for the State Department’s $70,000, you could get about 1,100 lavish collectible volumes at $63.95 each, about enough to supply the Luxembourg army with a few to spare, or 7 million one-cent copies, one for every inhabitant of Papua New Guinea, assuming there are that many available. Of course the taxpayer would also have to carry the cost of shipping by diplomatic bag. Either way, it is probably not how most Americans think the State Department should spend its time—or its money.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to The Audacity of Obama's Big Book Promo

    1. zff says:

      "As has been remarked, U.S. public diplomacy in the age of Obama often amounts to the same thing as publicity for the President himself, with American institutions serving as megaphones for his political message."

      And that is exactly why Mrs. Paige's contention that this is propaganda is 100 percent collect. It's meant to promote a positive image of the President and thus promote his policies and agenda. It's nothing more than spreading Obama's own political propaganda.

    2. Bobbie says:

      Well, we now know Obama and his book was to promote his Presidency. It's totally invalid today except to maybe know what his train of thought stems from. But that doesn't matter unless it had been read by enough good people who can see through bull poop, before he got on the ballot.

      Very unethical to be pushing a personal product on others at the expense of knowing or unknowing tax payers. Totally inappropriate. Accountability and discipline is necessary! Stop his added wastes and desperation to his unconstitutional efforts and his stretch of "need" for this country.

    3. well we could go back to the way we spent taxpayers money in the clinton days–investigating a president for immoral activities–and impeachment procedings–that was money well spent huh??

      • Lloyd Scallan says:

        YES, it was money "well spent". What Clinton supporter still refuse to accept that Bill Clinton was in fact "impeached", not for "immoral activities" such as having young interns "service him" in the White House, looking into the camera and lying with a stright face to the American people,
        grouping unwilling women, and so on, but the undeniable fact that he committed "perjury" which, by the way, is a criminal act. Regardless, the radical left will always deny facts but live in a false world that
        their ideology promotes as real life.

    4. SMB says:

      Oh, yes, it is one thing more…… doesn't the author get something when his books sell? even if he donated all the income from them to his fave charity, it wouldn't be how I want my tax dollars being spent!!!

    5. Taxpayer spent $70,000 for Obama's book to be handed out to other nations. Awesome.

    6. Chris Fields says:

      He goes from Campaigner in Chief to Promoter in Chief so seamlessly.

    7. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Pure propaganda. Obama is "selling himself" as POTUS, not an ordinary U.S. citizen. For Obama to use our tax dollars to promote his progaganda is way beyond "inappropiate". But by this point in time, what else can we expect from this disgrace.

    8. carol,az says:

      Don't be so serious. You did hear they had a second book burning not exclusive to Germany this time around.

    9. Counting the days says:

      We don't even have to imagine how the situation would be perceived if the perpetrator was a Republican: I remember when Newt was pilloried over whether he had derived any income from the sale of books while he was a sitting speaker and the immense furor that arose over whether that was an ethics violation or not, even though he had donated all the royalties to a non-profit. Yet President B. Hussein Obama can shamelessly abuse his position to pad his personal wallet and we hear nary a peep while Speaker Gingrich was put through the shredder, effectively ending his congressional career! Apparently, being a Democrat means No Ethics Required. I'm embarrassed to be an American these days, the abuses of office by this administration are neverending and seemingly limitless in scope.

    10. Mike Schneider says:

      I'm surprised at Helle Dale's comment since she is highly respected across a broad political spectrum for fair play, and this item is a little dated and inflated. At the outset of every Administration, the public diplomacy professionals, earlier in USIA and now at State, have ordered titles of books by the incoming President and his philosophical soulmates, especially when there is a major party change or the advent of a different philosophy. For example, when Ronald Reagan was elected, USIA stocked up on books and articles on him, some prepared by Agency writers, and also books by Jude Wanniski, on the Laffer Curve, Friedrich Hayek and other conservative thinkers. This was long overdue, as was the need for more balance between centrist and center-left magazines and conservative journals. But public diplomacy and its practitioners, despite individual leanings, did try to reflect the prevailing ethos, certainly of so strong a political force represented by the Reagan revolution. It's lilttle wonder that Obama's memoirs would get a lot of play.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×