RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
It's got a snappy title and an author with a reputation for making trouble for Democratic presidential candidates. This weekend Jerome Corsi's new book, "The Obama Nation," will debut as number one on the New York Times bestseller list. It's getting the most publicity, but it's not the only anti-Obama book making its way up the bestseller list.
In the world of politics, the number of people who buy these books is probably not as important as the number of people who hear about their sometimes shocking claims. NPR's Lynn Neary reports.
LYNN NEARY: If you say the title of Jerome Corsi's book often enough and quickly enough, the words Obama nation will easily morph into the word abomination, and that, says Corsi, is no accident.
Mr. JEROME CORSI (Author, "The Obama Nation"): The play on words is intentional because Obama's radical leftist politics, driven by the cult of personality, is intentionally manufactured, would be an abomination.
NEARY: Corsi is best known as the co-author of "Unfit for Command: The Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry," the book that inflicted serious damage on John Kerry's presidential campaign at just about this time four years ago. His new book has already been labeled a political hatchet job by his critics, who charge that it is filled with inaccuracies and falsehoods.
Such criticism doesn't bother Corsi, who says the book is based on solid scholarship.
Mr. CORSI: Well, the book is not written to be an academic book. It's an easy popular read written for, you know, the normal reader. And as with "Unfit for Command," it's written in the context of a political campaign and it's aimed against the candidate, which is Barack Obama.
Mr. DERRICK MCEVOY (Publisher's Weekly): I have a name for it now. You know, they're saying swift-boating Obama; I call it swift-booking Obama.
NEARY: Derrick McEvoy is a senior editor who writes about political books for Publisher's Weekly. "Obama Nation," says McEvoy, is one of a slew of both positive and negative books about Barack Obama that are coming on the market now. But McEvoy says political attack books like Corsi's are aimed at a specific audience.
Mr. MCAVOY: The one thing you must remember about these books, these are written to the choir, to the true believers of the right wing. This base will buy books. I think conservatives will buy books more to reinforce their beliefs than liberals will.
NEARY: But buying the book is not the whole point. A book only has to sell in the tens of thousands to be a bestseller. So if a book is to have influence on the election, it has to reach beyond those who actually buy it, much less read it. Margie Ross is president and publisher of Regnery Books, which published the swift boat book four years ago. And Regnery just released another anti-Obama book, appropriately titled "The Case Against Barack Obama" by David Freddoso.
Ms. MARGIE ROSS (Regnery Books): Our philosophy whenever we publish a book is that there will be ten to maybe 100 times as many people who hear about the book compared to the number of people who actually go out and buy the book.
NEARY: In 2004, the influence of "Unfit for Command" was greatly heightened by an ad campaign that accompanied the book. But Ross says Regnery positions all their books to get maximum attention in the media.
Ms. ROSS: Our approach and our goal is always to make sure that we use a book as a platform for an author to get out his or her message. And by getting out that message on the media, whether it's TV or radio or print or electronic media, I think that gives us a sort of multiplier effect on whatever the message of the book is.
NEARY: Paul Waldman of the media watchdog group Media Matters says a powerful conservative machine helps propel books like "Obama Nation" to the public's attention.
Mr. PAUL WALDMAN (Media Matters): One of the interesting things about this is that the conservatives have such a good system in place to promote these books. This is coming out from a division of Simon and Schuster that is headed up by Mary Madeline, who is a GOP operative, very close to Vice President Cheney. Once the book comes out, it's then promoted via conservative book clubs and mailing lists. And usually in these cases there are conservative donors and organizations that buy up thousands of copies in bulk. That helps propel it onto the bestseller list, and then the mainstream media figures that they have to pay attention because it's on the bestseller list.
NEARY: Ultimately, says Dermot McEvoy, it's the candidate who bears the responsibility for dealing with attack books. And that, he says, is the lesson Barack Obama can learn from John Kerry's response to his swift-booking.
Mr. MCAVOY: The candidate did nothing, you know, and he now claims he had no money, I mean John Kerry, to counteract that. But I mean, you can counteract it in a lot of ways. And you know, a smart candidate will not allow this to be manipulated into a corner by this.
NEARY: Yesterday the Obama campaign did hit back, releasing "Unfit for Publication," a 40-page rebuttal of "Obama Nation." Saying Corsi is a bigoted fringe author, the campaign called his book disgusting and false.
Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.
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