Five books that haven’t been written yet

By David Rothkopf FP wants book lists. Now, I have nothing against books. I’ve read some books. I own a lot of books, too, because they really are the easiest decorating solution for almost any room. I’ve even written some books.  I’m even writing another one now. At least I am when I am not ...

586847_090410_ROTH_BOOKb2.jpg
586847_090410_ROTH_BOOKb2.jpg

By David Rothkopf

FP wants book lists. Now, I have nothing against books. I've read some books. I own a lot of books, too, because they really are the easiest decorating solution for almost any room. I've even written some books.  I'm even writing another one now. At least I am when I am not doing this damn blog and trying to earn a living and make sure my daughters have all the fancy Japanese ceramic hair-straighteners they need. But basically, I have a big problem with most books. They bore me senseless. (Which is why the last two books I read for fun were the international affairs classics My Booky Wook by Russell Brand and Chelsea Handler's Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea. I recommend both not because either will tell you anything about the economy or all that geo-blah-blah-blah that you foreign policy geeks love so much. But rather because either is likely to help you survive this crisis better than all the "Black Swans" or "Outliers" and other intellectual porn that you are likely to pick up in the airport bookstore.


By David Rothkopf

FP wants book lists. Now, I have nothing against books. I’ve read some books. I own a lot of books, too, because they really are the easiest decorating solution for almost any room. I’ve even written some books.  I’m even writing another one now. At least I am when I am not doing this damn blog and trying to earn a living and make sure my daughters have all the fancy Japanese ceramic hair-straighteners they need. But basically, I have a big problem with most books. They bore me senseless. (Which is why the last two books I read for fun were the international affairs classics My Booky Wook by Russell Brand and Chelsea Handler’s Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea. I recommend both not because either will tell you anything about the economy or all that geo-blah-blah-blah that you foreign policy geeks love so much. But rather because either is likely to help you survive this crisis better than all the “Black Swans” or “Outliers” and other intellectual porn that you are likely to pick up in the airport bookstore.

So, rather than going the easy route and giving you a list of books that I’ve read or that I want you to think I have read (so you’ll think I’m smart and not just another pretty face), I will offer you a few books that haven’t been written yet, but that ought to be. Like most of this blog and its author … some of these ideas are semi-serious. I’ll leave you to decide which ones.

1. Carla and I: The Early Years

This is, of course, the intimate story of the previously secret, passionate relationship between France’s current first lady, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, and, well, me. In it we relive those beautiful moments when I taught the former supermodel how shallow her previous relationships with Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Laurent Fabius, and Kevin Costner all were by taking her to the Jersey shore and showing her that G5s and summers bobbing in a 300 foot yacht off St. Tropez were nothing compared with pulling taffy, fried clams and whack-a-mole in Long Branch. Naturally, she was devastated when I decided to move on to my (much more beautiful and charming), wife, and it left a hole in her life…roughly the size of a tiny Frenchman. This is a book that the public never expected — especially Carla and my wife — but has already been made into a movie — mostly playing in my own private psychic cinematheque.

2. Did the News Media Die or Commit Suicide?

Is it possible it wasn’t new media that killed journalism? Is it possible that it actually just committed suicide by taking massive overdoses of happy-talk, gossip, and reality-TV sex-predator stings thus triggering the death of its intellectual curiosity and professionalism? This book will look at three massive failures of the media in the past several years. The failure to cover the Iraq war and its causes. The failure to cover the roots of the financial catastrophe. And the complete sell out of objectivity involved in its coverage of the 2008 elections. The book will ask the tough questions: Why did the media play along with the campaign of fear-mongering and  faux-patriotism cooked up by the Bush administration after 9/11? What happened to old fashioned-style war correspondents who actually covered wars rather than allowing themselves to be the embedded puppets of military spin masters? What happened to investigative journalism? Was modern finance too complex and too hard to show on CNBC (especially if the facts would piss off the advertisers)? Why did the media decide to kill Hillary Clinton and lift up Barack Obama? The only problem with this idea of course, is that there is no one who could write it…given that we don’t actually have journalists anymore. But I’m thinking if we could get the DNA of one…possibly from an old shot glass…maybe we could do one of those Jurassic Park cloning kinda deals.

3. The Takeover: Goldman Sachs and the Leveraged Buyout of America

No single company has ever had the prolonged hold on the American political establishment that has been achieved by Goldman Sachs. Of the last four Goldman CEOs, two have been chief economic advisor to the president (Rubin and Friedman), two have been Treasury Secretary (Rubin and Paulson), and one has been a governor and a senator (Corzine). But the firm’s unparalleled influence has extended for decades from former Deputy Treasury John Whitehead thru Bush 43 White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton to current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s chief of staff plus the guy who runs the TARP program plus there are rumors that new White House public liaison official Kal Penn’s movie Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was actually backed with Goldman money. During this period in which Goldman rode the government like a pony, U.S. policy has not only thrown off the regulatory shackles that freed them to make money by the boatload, the USG  has intervened directly and regularly to the benefit of Goldman from the Tequila Crisis “bail-in” to the AIG “bail out.” How can this have happened? Why has the media rolled over and let Goldman scratch them on the belly throughout? (See previous book idea.) Why is the government still full of them and others from even less reputable financial institutions (which, to Goldman’s credit, is virtually all others)?  Why are we still drinking the Kool Aid that somehow these people have special powers after all we have been through? This book will provide answers. (Unless Goldman pays the author more to shut up. In which case, this one, I volunteer to write…well, to be lucratively co-opted out of writing.)

4. America’s Real First Family: The Daleys of Chicago

Forget the Kennedys and the Bushes, no American family has been more influential in truly transforming American politics in the past fifty years than the Daleys of Chicago. They helped steal an election for John Kennedy, the first Mayor Richard Daley presided over the watershed chaos of the Chicago Democratic National Convention in 1968 thus ushering in a rebellion against modern machine politics…which he nonetheless used to empower his own children, one a future Commerce Secretary who helped make NAFTA a reality, and the other the current mayor-for-life in Chicago. Of course, their greatest triumph may have been using that same machine to create the presidency of Barack Obama-thus enabling him to simultaneously embody both the status quo and to be the change from that status quo that was so desperately needed. Even electing a pinhead like George W. Bush president hardly seems like much of political conjuring trick by comparison. (It would also be great to see a side-by-side comparison of say John Kennedy and Richard Nixon that would offer a fair evaluation of who really best exemplified the American dream of making it on one’s own, who actually committed the greater crimes in pursuit of their political futures and who actually was the better president. Of all these books…this last Kennedy vs. Nixon idea is the one least likely to actually get written given the machinery that would shut it down.)

5. A School for the Differently Humor-Enabled

This would be the saga of my daughters’ beloved and otherwise extremely wonderful high school which has become such a living parody of Washington, D.C. lefty political correctness that a rumor has sprung up that the school will soon adopt a block of quivering tofu as its mascot. While I believe that particular rumor to be untrue (or at least an exaggeration), nothing demonstrates the pitiful reality like the fact that the head of the school recently felt compelled to sanitize the upcoming, much anticipated spring production of The Producers by banning the use of swastikas in the musical. Admittedly the show was written and produced by Jews for audiences that had so many Jews in them that during intermission you could have called the area outside the auditorium the Israel Lobby (cue the rimshot)…so you have to wonder who they think is going to be offended (although knowing the school-which by the way has given my daughters a great education-they might well be doing this out of concern for Indians objecting to the continued co-opting of their ancient symbol for luck.) And of course, the show within the show is still called “Springtime for Hitler” so we all will have a clue as to what is being lampooned….although this does raise the question as to why the symbol was offensive but the actual genocidal maniac was not. (Although, I hesitate to raise these questions lest the powers that be rename the big number “Springtime for Ralph Nader” or something that would appeal more to their sensibilities and simultaneously wipe away every hint of every joke in the show.) Nonetheless, while I encourage everyone in Washington over the next couple weeks to go see the show, I warn you…laugh at the wrong place and you could find yourself at the center of a painfully earnest group sharing session about your insensitivity.

Other ideas welcome. I will make all of them available to the publishing community for immediate direct-to-Kindle release.

MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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