Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Editors question Haley's motives to publish

One of the benefits of small-town newspapers: Common sense, lack of pretense, no artifice.

Editors of the Greenwood Index-Journal have taken a circumspect look at Governor Nikki Haley's national book tour and observed that not only may Haley have jumped the gun as an author-politico, but she likely has taken valuable time away from the people who elected her Queen to serve her own interests.

But they do so with such an even temper and tone that it hardly seems a critique.

Anyone, it seems, can be an author these days. Whether it's launching a website, posting blogs or finding that publisher who is more than happy to print volumes of what anyone has to say - for a price - everyone can potentially be an author.

Gov. Nikki Haley has become an author, which is not to equate her newly released book, "Can't Is Not an Option," with the many self-published works available.

What generosity the editors display.

I, in fact, do equate Haley's text with the many self-published works available -- ones commonly called "vanity" projects -- as it was not an all-purpose, general publisher that published her notes, but one established solely for the purpose of publishing conservatives hawking their vanity projects. I discussed the products of the publisher known as Sentinel HC here. Its stable of "authors" includes such unliterary names as Bachmann, Limbaugh, Rumsfeld, Gingrich and Dole.

No doubt the governor has a story to share. The book delves into, as the subtitle "My American Story" suggests, her life growing up in South Carolina as the daughter of Indian immigrants. And the former state House member has a story to share about her political beliefs and philosophy, spelled out as she writes of her alignment with the tea party.

In addition to amassing piles of money to spend on campaigning, it seems another requirement of politicians these days is to crank out a book about themselves. Sure, it's rather expected from presidents after they have served their terms in office. Perhaps that pattern trickled down to others, including those who only have aspirations of being president or vice president.

Was there a single candidate for president this year who hasn't published a vanity project in an attempt to establish some intellectual gravitas? There must be something about adding "author" to one's resume that makes him or her extra-qualified to serve in the highest offices of the land.

I wonder, did Franklin Roosevelt publish a book before running for office? Did Abraham Lincoln? Certainly, it's well-known that John Kennedy did (or, perhaps, Kennedy did with the aid of speechwriter Ted Sorenson), but Kennedy's book wasn't about himself -- it wasn't a mem-wah -- but was instead a collection of eight biographies of political leaders who crossed party lines, defied their political base to make tough but right choices and who suffered loss of popular support for it. And, perhaps most significantly, Kennedy's text won a Pulitzer Prize.

Hard to imagine that Haley's vanity project will rise to that occasion.

Sarah Palin has done well for herself, for example. She might have failed to be the current vice president as she ran on the 2008 ticket with John McCain, but who can deny she has parlayed that into a more lucrative success story? She did not even have to complete her term as governor of Alaska to do so. Speaking engagements, a book and book-signing tours, a reality TV show and more have kept Palin in the limelight and filled her bank account well.

So what can we make of Haley authoring a book and releasing it barely a year into her term in office as governor?

If the book is only a way to share her story of how she faced challenges growing up in Bamberg, how she fought her way in the corporate and political world as a woman and outline her political philosophy, then why now? It seems it would be more appropriate, perhaps even more fulfilling, to wait until her term as governor is nearly up to publish her story.

This is common sense, but it defies marketing sense. Let's recall that Haley's book deal was announced very shortly after her inauguration. For a variety of reasons, she was then still a novelty act, and novelty gets attention; novelty sells products. It's easy to imagine a marketing expert selling Haley on the notion that a fawning public demanded to know her views on everything from health care reform to soap flakes.

It's equally easy to imagine that Haley agreed with the premise.

Marketing is about moving products, and products are most easily moved when they are still hot -- witness the red neon signs advertising "Hot Doughnuts" at 6 a.m. Cold product is harder to move; it winds up in the remainder bin at a deeply-discounted price.

Publishing a mem-wah halfway through her term of office demonstrates that Haley understands at least that premise. Trying to foist her story and her opinions on the public after they've had a thorough airing and been dismissed as nutty is not a successful marketing strategy.

"Can't Is Not an Option," in title and in the timing of its release, is more than a tale of Haley's personal and political paths; it is a clear indicator of the governor's higher political aspirations.

I shudder to think.

To her credit, Haley has risen through social and political ranks in South Carolina. She has experienced prejudice and she has succeeded in state politics. You don't have to like her politics to acknowledge how deftly she rocketed to become the state's first woman governor.

As she is fond of telling Pat Robertson, Stephen Colbert, the hostesses of "The View" and others, it says a lot about South Carolina that Haley was able to become governor.

I wholeheartedly agree that it says a lot about us. But I'm confident that my conclusion of what it says about us is different from Haley's conclusion of what it says about us.

Such a tale is one that fits like a glove for anyone such as Mitt Romney who very probably has to consider whether a Romney-Haley ticket is his ticket to the White House.

Perish the thought.

Even if Haley is not considering such a role, her book's release clearly indicates she has her sights set on more than one, or even two, terms in office as the Palmetto State's governor.

Must we suffer it? Must the children wait another whole generation for capable leadership?

That is neither good nor bad. We just hope writing the book did not take up too much valuable time that could have been spent on the duties of being governor. The political world must be vastly different from the normal business world. Not many CEOs have the time to produce an autobiography their first year on the job.

An astute observation that clearly contrasts our governor from a capable CEO.

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