WASHINGTON -- President Clinton is the author of a new book outlining where he thinks the country ought to be heading.
The president's contract calls for him to receive neither an advance nor royalties for "Between Hope and History: Meeting America's Challenges for the 21st Century."
The book is coming out at the same time in the presidential election cycle as a book he and Vice President Al Gore wrote four years ago.
That book, a paperback called "Putting People First," was a compendium of 1992 campaign promises. This one, a $16.95, 180-page hardback by Times Books, contains no surprises, White House aides said. Those who follow the president closely will recognize the themes and language because they are derived from speeches the president has already delivered.
America is poised on "the Age of Possibility," the president says in his book. "The era of big government is over," the book also asserts. Both phrases comes from Clinton's 1996 State of the Union address.
The book is divided into three main sections, titled "Opportunity," "Responsibility" and "Community," themes he has stressed repeatedly and is poised to discuss in his speech accepting renomination later this month at the Democratic convention in Chicago.
White House officials said yesterday that Clinton wrote the book in "his spare moments," but they openly conceded that the president had a lot of help from William Nothdurft, a Seattle-based free-lance writer close to Gore. The two received editing help from White House communications director Donald Baer and domestic policy adviser Bruce Reed, aides said.
White House aides were not overly coy about the book being a campaign-year prop, either.
"He wanted to put forward his vision of the role of government and community and his view of where the country is going," Deputy White House press secretary Mary Ellen Glynn told reporters in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where Clinton is vacationing. "And certainly this campaign is about the future of the country."
It is set to hit bookstores in a week, a few days before the Democratic convention.
But if the book itself contains no surprises, its existence was certainly a surprise in leak-obsessed Washington. The biggest surprise of all may have been the identity of the publisher, however.
Publisher is a surprise
Times Books is owned by Random House, the New York outfit that gave the world the novel "Primary Colors." In that send-up of the Clintons, the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton appear as scheming and lusty Jack and Susan Stanton, a power couple from a Southern state who all but sell their souls to make it to the White House.
Yesterday, however, Random House officials issued a dignified statement about the publication.
"This is a historic book," maintained Random House Vice President Peter Osnos. "It will enable a sitting president to reach the American people directly with his personal vision for the country's future."
"Between Hope and History" is the second publishing event of the year for the Clintons, and it is all but guaranteed to join Mrs. Clinton's "It Takes a Village" on the best-seller list -- Random House said it planned a huge first printing of 400,000 copies.
That would make any first-time author a multimillionaire, but the president refused to take proceeds from the book, thus avoiding the kind of scrutiny that dogged House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch offered Gingrich $4.5 million for a book of political philosophy, but the Georgia Republican gave up the advance last year amid criticism of the deal.
"The president will not make any money from this book," publicity director Mary Beth Roche said. "We will."
Pub Date: 8/15/96