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How should society respond to Donald Trump’s new book?

It’s hard to imagine former President Donald Trump sitting at a desk working away at his magnum opus. Where the image of professorial and erudite Barack Obama perched at the end of a long mahogany desk, fountain pen and yellow legal pad in hand, fits like an ice cream on a hot day, the idea of Trump at a word-processor is hard to entertain.

Nevertheless, Trump has followed in his predecessor’s footprints, on this if little else, by publishing a book about life in the White House. 

If anyone was worried for Trump’s bank account after his removal from office by the electorate, the news this week should assuage any of his supporters. Like many politicians, he took a huge pay-out in the form of a book deal, and has raised $20 million in the first two months since release.

Of course, Trump, like Obama, was already a published author prior to his election.

I love political memoirs, even though many are a partisan nostalgia trip, albeit covered in a more scholarly veneer

Unlike his first book, The Art of the Deal, this new book will contain far fewer words and far more pictures. Our Journey Together will retail at $79.99 ($229.99 if the great man signs it), and is a ‘coffee-table style’ book, replete with over 300 images. This book seeks not to expose new insights in the former president’s thinking, but instead to appease a base and redefine a recent era.

Now, to be clear, I’m not judging the decision to write a book, or even its content. I love political memoirs, even though many are a partisan nostalgia trip, albeit covered in a more scholarly veneer. Bill Clinton’s book, My Life, is noticeably light on any new reflections or admissions, with only brief mention of his numerous personal issues in the White House. Instead, it focuses on the achievements of his administrations, painting a rose-tinted image of the Clinton presidency for liberals, me included, to enjoy. However, the style does mark out this book as less a post-presidential reflection and more a tool to campaign, and fundraise, for Trump’s next run.

Is it a problem that politicians are able to attract such enormous pay-outs, despite such little authorial contribution, in their post-presidency? Should we be grateful that they share their insights and observations with the public, or does the world of books and politics coming together disappoint? Is it like the crossover of your two favourite TV programmes you always hoped for, leaving both seeming dirtier and more commercial?

The alternatives, such as the private speaking circuit, are even more exclusive, and offer even less literary merit than a coffee table ‘for Patriots’

A sad but inevitable truth about political life is that successful politicians will always make more money after leaving office. Especially in America, where the political industrial complex makes national politicians ultra-famous media personalities, it is unrealistic to imagine that the public purse could ever rival the life of speeches, talk-show appearances, and books offered after the presidency.

However, of all the ways for a former President to pay the bills, writing a book is the most acceptable. At least this way there’s the semblance of a public service, making a politician’s thoughts available to everyone, for a fee. The alternatives, such as the private speaking circuit, are even more exclusive, and offer even less literary merit than a coffee table ‘for Patriots.’ 

In all, I have mixed feelings about the success of the book. On the one hand, all money raised will no doubt be channelled into the campaign funds of the next Trump bid for the White House. Like a yard-sign or MAGA hat, this book will be a way for loyal supporters of the Donald to send a few more pennies into his coffers. It is, in short, a blatant cash grab. On the other hand, hopefully Trump’s success as a writer will distract him from other endeavours. If this book is largely his own work, perhaps the hours spent at writers’ retreats or typing furiously to meet deadline will be hours not spent running to be the next president. After all, I’d rather he won a Pulitzer Prize than the United States Presidency.

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