Reporter's Note: I write letters to the president every day, and he writes books. Apparently, he also sells them.
Dear Mr. President,
When I first heard this report of U.S. embassies around the globe buying $70,000 dollars worth of your books as gifts to promote America, I truly thought the information must be wrong. I realize that the embassies have done slightly similar things in the past (as in, buying and giving books by or about former presidents) but the idea that a sitting president would make money off of sales of his own book to government agencies just feels…well, a little unsettling.
And I could not imagine that someone in the State Department would not have slammed on the brakes earlier, by saying something like, “Hey gang, I realize he is the president and we’d like him to like us, but this smacks of a sweetheart, backroom deal. We know it is not, but it certainly smells like it. So put the Obama book purchases on hold. You can buy them after he leaves office. That will be soon enough and will help us avoid what looks like a conflict of interest.”
I’m not utterly discounting the notion that you are a popular world figure, and maybe selling more of your books will help others think well of us. But there are hundreds of great books about America and its leaders that could serve the same purpose.
Hey, here is an idea! Why not have the embassies buy some of those other books, and you include a personal note with each volume to the gift recipient? Something like, “Hi, Leader of the Free World here! I hope you enjoy this holiday gift, and learn something about the great nation of America which might make you less prone to hating us. Sincerely, Barack Obama.”
No one could fault you for that!
Above all that, there is this: I can’t help but wonder what message we are sending when our State Department is giving away tomes about one person, especially when that one person is a sitting president. The greatness of America, after all, is not really its leaders…let alone one of them. Our greatness flows from a whole country of people striving, working, inventing, and struggling to realize not the dreams of one person’s father, but rather the collective dreams of us all.
Just something to keep in mind. I assume you have already arranged to have your publisher at least donate all those copies instead of selling them, yes?
Otherwise, I hope your Thursday is going well. Call if you want to chat.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with