Official Autobiographies Versus Political Tell-All Books

Hillary Clinton’s new autobiography about her tenure at the State Department is out.  Entitled Hard Choices, it’s gotten some tough reviews.  One piece describes it as riddled with cliches, long and boring, and ultimately destined to end up in the “Free” bin at the local bookseller.  Depending upon who you ask, the book is either doing fine or bombing, and the Drudge Report gleefully reports that after only one week it’s already fallen out of the Amazon list of top ten sellers.

To the extent that she cares — after all, she received a hefty amount to write the book in the first place — Hillary Clinton shouldn’t feel bad about this.  The reality is that political biographies are, almost without exception, unreadable.  All of the interesting stuff has been excised because it might offend someone, and any truly revealing anecdotes hit the cutting room floor for the same reason.  What’s left is typically ponderous and so carefully written and weighty and self-important in tone that an objective reader quickly ends up numbed, then flips to the picture pages before tossing the book aside for good.

Contrast that the political tell-all book — the one that’s based largely on anonymous and loosely described sources like “a long-time family friend” or “a member of the legal team.”  The tell-all books dish the dirt.  Consider the new book by Edward Klein called:  Blood Feud:  The Clintons Versus The Obamas.  Some of the incidents it reports are a lot juicier than a bloodless description of policy decisions about Syria.  One report discusses an unpleasant golf game between President Obama and former President Clinton, an awkward dinner where a bored President Obama played with his BlackBerry rather than listen to a lecture from Clinton, and Michelle Obama gossiping with a friend and referring to Hillary Clinton as “Hildebeest.”  Of course, books based on anonymous sources always need to be taken with more than a grain of salt . . . but, say, could President Obama really have blown off the Clintons so conspicuously?  Do tell!

Which would you rather read:  a carefully contrived, leaden official biography written by someone who aspires to a further political career, or a lively book that treats politicians like real people rather brittle brass, god-like creatures who have only important conversations about significant developments in the world?  The best-seller lists will tell the tale.

Tebow, Schmeebow

Tonight Tim Tebow leads the Denver Broncos in an NFL playoff game against the New England Patriots.  I won’t be watching.

Even though the Drudge Report seems to feature him daily, and others appear to be watching his every move, I really don’t care much one way or the other about Tim Tebow.  I rooted against him when he was part of the Florida team that spanked Ohio State in the national championship game years ago, but now I’m just ambivalent.  I’m not swept up in Tebow Mania, I haven’t “Tebowed,” and I don’t plan to do so.

Tim Tebow isn’t the best quarterback in the NFL, and the Broncos aren’t the best team.  The only reason Tim Tebow is the subject of so much attention is that he is open and demonstrative about his religious faith.  I don’t begrudge him his beliefs, and I don’t doubt that they are heartfelt — but I don’t think they make him a major culture figure.  The fact that Tim Tebow is a devout Christian is about as relevant to evaluating him as an NFL quarterback as a minister’s ability to throw a tight spiral is to determining whether he is a good leader of his flock.

I don’t care whether Denver or New England wins tonight, and I doubt that any higher power does, either.