It's the kind of publicity every author dreams of: In the heat of the 2016 primaries, a leading candidate for president mentions your new book in a nationally-televised debate. Unfortunately, it involved a Democrat, attacking her Democratic opponent for endorsing it.
That happened to me last Thursday, when Hillary Clinton accused Bernie Sanders of writing "a foreword for a book that basically argues voters should have buyer's remorse when it comes to President Obama's leadership and legacy."
I'm torn between sending Secretary Clinton flowers for all the free publicity or criticizing her for misrepresenting the facts.
The truth is: Senator Sanders did not write the foreword for my book, Buyer's Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down. He only provided a blurb for the back of the book. So did Congressman Keith Ellison and former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
The truth is: While giving him credit for the good things he's done, my book is, indeed, critical of President Obama. But Senate Sanders' blurb is not. In it, he merely repeats a point he makes in every campaign speech:
Bill Press makes the case why, long after taking the oath of office, the next president of the United States must keep rallying the people who elected him or her on behalf of progressive causes. That is the only way real change will happen. Read this book.
The truth is: I wrote this book because, as a liberal, and as a member of the White House Press Corps, I remembered what Obama said on more than one occasion. In September 2008, for example, as a candidate for president, he urged his supporters: "I want you to hold our government accountable. I want you to hold me accountable."
It's an argument he repeated, once in the Oval Office. "I want you to hold all of Washington accountable," he told an Annandale, Virginia, town hall in April 2011. "There are powerful lobbies and special interests in Washington. I want you to hold me accountable."
The truth is: When you do hold President Obama accountable, his record is a mixed bag. There are many good things President Obama has accomplished, for which I duly give him credit right up front: Obamacare; ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell; supporting same-sex marriage; two (and, hopefully, soon three) outstanding appointments to the Supreme Court; the Iran nuclear deal; and re-establishment of relations with Cuba, among others.
But the truth also is: There are many areas where he has let progressives down. Most likely, he will end his eight years in office, for example, with no comprehensive immigration reform, no serious new measures to curb gun violence, no new restrictions on out-of-control campaign spending, and the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay still open.
Okay, maybe you can blame his inability to deliver on those issues on recalcitrant Republicans in Congress. But there are other areas of disappointment where Obama acted on his own: embracing NSA's wholesale domestic spying; unleashing hundreds of killer drones; forcing through the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, over the objections of organized labor and Democrats in Congress; pursuing journalists and whistle-blowers for reporting the truth; failing to prosecute one single Wall Street executive for the illegal trading that caused the crash of 2008. And, at a time when the economy needed more stimulus, he spent years trying to craft a "Grand Bargain" with Speaker John Boehner that would cut social programs, instead.
To paraphrase Hillary Clinton in the PBS debate: These are the kind of actions you expect from a Republican in the Oval Office, but not from a Democrat.
By highlighting both what is good and bad about the Obama administration, from a progressive point of view, Buyer's Remorse may be tough on President Obama. But that's contained in the book, not the blurb. For any criticism of Obama, blame me; don't blame Bernie.