Hillary Clinton book tour: Is it just politics?

The political twittering class may want to treat the success (or lack thereof) of the Hillary Clinton book as an electoral bellwether. But famous people write books to make money and extend their brands.

Susan Walsh/AP/File
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks after receiving the 2013 Lantos Human Rights Prize during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 6, 2013. For Mrs. Clinton's book tour this week, she'll appear at book events in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and suburban Washington, D.C., according to the Associated Press.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book tour goes full throttle this week. She’ll appear at book events in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and suburban Washington, D.C., according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, she’ll amp up publicity with carefully timed interviews. On Sunday, ABC was already dribbling out snippets from the former secretary of State’s talk with Diane Sawyer.

As to the obligatory running-for-president question, Ms. Clinton told Ms. Sawyer she would “help in the midterm elections in the fall and then take a deep breath and kind of go through my pluses and minuses.”

Yeah, right: We agree with Chris Cillizza of The Fix at The Washington Post, who says we should not kid ourselves. Clinton is indeed running for president right now. It’s possible she’ll stop running at some point for reasons that will make sense to her, but that’s in the future. In the present, she’s already campaigning.

That said, let’s not hyperventilate about the linkage between her new book, “Hard Choices,” and her presidential chances. There’s definitely a tendency among the political twittering class to treat the book and the tour's success (or lack thereof) as a sort of electoral bellwether. The book tour is either a clever way to harvest names for her database or a way to campaign without having to face tough questions or a means for her to judge the depth of her nationwide support.

“Her forthcoming book tour and the attendant multiplatform media blitz are about everything but the book and the bucks,” writes Todd Purdum in Politico Monday, in one example of this kind of argument.

Well, we don’t agree with that. Tell it to the folks at Simon & Schuster who paid her a reported $8 million advance and have already printed a million copies of “Hard Choices” and watch them laugh – or cry. Famous people write books to make money and to extend their brands. Book tours help sell books. Sometimes a signing is a signing, after all.

Look, it’s a campaign book. That means it has some political uses. It’s a way of putting forth themes, trying out ways to frame political messages, and surmounting difficult issues. This last one is a classic. “I’ve dealt with that in my book” is something you hear a lot on the trail.

But the Clintons have a family business they pursue when not engaged in direct political jobs: producing words. Ex-President Clinton and his spouse have made lots of money giving speeches and writing books since the former left office in 2000. They’ve done well, and as a word-producer ourselves, we say more power to them. Philip Bump at The Fix has a great graphic that shows how they’ve accumulated wealth: When they left the White House, they were in deep debt due to legal fees. Now, they’ve got assets of between $10 million and $50 million.

Yes, they’re rich. But only journalists think rich people lose interest in getting more money. We’d bet the metric Ms. Clinton is most interested in this week is books sold, not e-mail addresses harvested.

The flip side of this is that books sold does not equal votes potentially cast. If it did, we might be talking about “President Palin.” Remember “Going Rogue,” her first memoir? That sold 2 million copies, putting it in league with the bestselling political memoirs of all time.

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