Washington Prowler

Of Me I Sing

The president is caught unawares in a bit of self-promotion.

By 12.20.10

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People like to talk about the bubble that President Barack Obama lives in, pointing out that he surrounded by more than the usual number of sycophants in this White House.

"You have Valerie [Jarrett] berating just about anyone who she even perceives has said something negative about the President," says one White House media aide. "She's constantly on her cell phone taking down some CEO or Senator or Congressional chief of staff for some slight, whether it actually was or not."

Then there are the manipulative advisers who create media events like the one at Arlington, Virginia's Long Branch Elementary School last week. Before heading over to the school, Obama was prepared to read Clement Moore's, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and leave it at that. But according to the White House source, a senior adviser and the White House advance staff informed him that the class had also requested that he read from his own book, Of Thee I Sing, which was recently published in the hopes of major holiday sales.

"It was purely to make him feel better and to generate publicity for the book," says the media aide. "The school didn't ask for it, no one did. But he goes into and comes out of these events with a warped perspective of how people view him and it's creating problems when he doesn't understand the poor reception he gets in more political settings." (Obama does not profit from the sales of the book; royalties are being funneled to a scholarship program for military families.)

The publication of the book does raise another interesting question: when exactly did Obama find the time to write it? The book, part of $1.9 million book deal he signed before his election as President, was handed into Random House some time in late 2008, in the midst of his campaign for the Democratic nomination and the general election. "He has said he did it on the road in between events and in down time," says a former Obama campaign worker. "No one knows who did the research, and not a lot of people believe he actually wrote it. It would be embarrassing if it turned out he was working on it during his time in the White House, but there is no evidence that he did."

According to a source inside Random House, employees there believe the children's book, which highlights the lives of famous Americans, was written in house and Obama approved the text some time in 2009 before it went to print.

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