The success of Obama-related bestsellers Game Change and The Bridge has sparked a feeding frenzy in the publishing world — and A-list Washington journalists are rushing to get in on the action with an Obama book of their own. Many of the authors are White House correspondents, close enough to the president and his aides to get the sort of juicy scoops that sell books. But that competition for gossip — details about "the backstage struggles, the fiery memos, the angry retorts in meetings" — has some commentators worried that these journalist-authors are offering the White House softball coverage in hopes of getting more dirt. Others are just pleading, "enough is enough." Here's a look at nine Washington journalists and the details of their Obama book projects:
1. Jonathan Alter (Newsweek)
The Promise, Alter's 500-page look at Obama's first year in office, created a buzz long before it hit the shelves May 18. The "blow-by-blow narrative... doesn't upend any existing narratives," says Gabriel Sherman in New York Magazine. But it does offer a "fresh" take of Obama, says Wil Hylton in GQ — painting the president as a "cool brainiac" who can be "competitive, tricky, sometimes cruel, with an uncanny ability to sense weakness and exploit it."
2. Bob Woodward (Washington Post)
Woodward is "the capital’s foremost fly-on-the-wall chronicler of political power," says Politico's Michael Calderone, and his as-yet untitled book, with a Sept. 28 release date, will be in the same vein as his insider accounts of every White House since Nixon's. It will probably be as fawning as Woodward's four "Bush-glorifying books," says Salon's Glenn Greenwald. After all, Woodward will want to keep his "lucrative position of unofficial royal court spokesman."
3. Jodi Kantor (New York Times)
Kantor reportedly negotiated a "stunning seven-figure book deal" to expand her New York Times Magazine profile of the Obamas' marriage. In her article, which featured extensive interviews with both spouses, Kantor argued that "the Obamas mix politics and romance in a way that no first couple quite have before.” But she faces a "significant obstacle" now, says The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, because so far the First Lady's office has refused all interview requests.
4. Chuck Todd (NBC)
Todd's book, according to agent Matthew Carnicelli, will be a "nuanced analytical narrative" that focuses on Obama's political relationship with Hillary Clinton. Todd has already met with both Obama and Clinton, Carnicelli says, showing that "few other journalists in D.C. or New York have the type of access he has." In return for that access, Greenwald grouses, Todd is offering himself up as "an amplifying vessel and justifier for whatever the White House happens to be saying at any given moment." The book is due out in 2012.
5. Ryan Lizza (New Yorker)
Lizza's upcoming book on Obama's first year or so in office came with an advance reportedly "worth a sum in the mid-six-figures." In return for his access to White House "royal court intrigue and gossip," Greenwald alleges, Lizza wrote a "glowing New Yorker profile of Rahm Emanuel so sycophantic it made the skin crawl."
6. Richard Wolffe (MSNBC)
Wolffe's pitch for a follow-up to his successful Obama campaign book is 30 Days, a month-long in-depth portrait of Obama's White House. Wolffe "established a rapport with the president" on the campaign trail, and he exploited that perceived closeness in selling his new book, says Gabriel Wolffe in The New Republic. But the nature of the project has led some observers to accuse him of "being overly sympathetic to the Obama camp" in his reporting.
7. David Maraniss (Washington Post)
Pulitzer Prize winner Maraniss is working on a "multigenerational biography" of Obama, tentatively titled Out of This World: The Making of Obama. The book — his second presidential biography, after the Bill Clinton classic First in His Class — is expected out in early 2012. It won't cover Obama's presidency.
8. Robert Draper (GQ)
Draper signed a deal last May to write a book on Obama and a history of race in America dating back to Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. His goal, he says, is to "trace the narrative arc of how we got from one point to the other.” Draper was granted an unusual amount of access to George W. Bush's staff, including six private sit-downs with Bush, for his 2008 book Dead Certain. His Obama book isn't out until 2012.
9. Daniel Klaidman (Newsweek)
Klaidman, Newsweek's managing editor, inked a deal for a book on Obama's mixed efforts to "re-balance terrorism policies" after the Bush administration. The working title of the book, due out in 2012, is The Arc of Justice: Obama, Terrorism, and the Struggle over American Ideals. Following the Alter book and David Remnick's The Bridge, says Zeke Turner in The New York Observer, it seems the "editors at Newsweek are taking on extracurricular activities."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The real reason conservatives should be outraged that police killed a white youth
- 8 ways you're probably overspending without even realizing it
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Why the West should accept ISIS as a sovereign nation
- Even critics of the euro didn't see this coming
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- 6 constitutional amendments that just missed the cut
- The essential techniques that every home cook should know
Subscribe to the Week