A shot of pure schadenfreude to pick you up at the end of a long week. Because we now cycle through three or four major new news stories every day in the Trump era, I’ve lost all sense of time. I would have guessed offhand that that fiasco in which the NYT featured a new allegation about college-era sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh and — oops — forgot to mention that the supposed victim doesn’t recall any such incident may have happened in … mid-August, maybe? Late July?
No, it was two and a half weeks ago. That was the last big blog obsession before the Ukraine story supernova’d.
Authors Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly did an extensive media tour to promote their work, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh,” and the bad publicity from the Times’s smear job at least did them the favor of raising public awareness of the book. The one-year anniversary of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and related retrospectives in the press also would help drive interest. Or so one would assume.
In reality sales have reportedly been disastrous, although just how disastrous is a matter of (minor) dispute. Our cousins at Townhall are hearing that “roughly 2500 books” were sold. Paul Bedard at the Examiner places the number a bit higher but still firmly in “disaster” territory. Wha’ happened?
Expected to sell at least 10,000-12,000 in the first two weeks and propel The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation onto the newspaper’s bestseller hardcover list, it has sold about a third of that in the first two weeks.
A publishing source provided the latest BookScan numbers, which can account for about 80% of sales. That number is 3,120. “If you add in ebooks — they may have sold a total of 4,000. That’s one of the most epic bombs in political publishing over the past decade,” said the source.
By comparison, another Kavanaugh book, Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court, which details the Democratic war on the Trump nominee, has sold 60,000 books and a total of 100,000 copies since its July 9 debut. It was written by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino and published by Regnery.
There’s no way to independently verify Bedard’s numbers but it’s very easy to independently verify where the book stands on Amazon’s list of hardcover bestsellers. As I write this, it’s #8,432. The Kindle version’s ranking is worse. So, yes, “epic bomb” sounds like a safe bet.
My guess is that Pogrebin and Kelly tanked because they’re guilty of miscalculation and also victims of bad luck. The miscalculation was them probably assuming that they’d draw readers from both sides of the aisle politically. It’s Kavanaugh, right? The most electric third rail of the Trump presidency, featuring one of the most memorable confirmation hearings in American history. But the Times feature with the inexplicably omitted detail about Kavanaugh’s so-called victim poisoned the book immediately for Republican audiences. Even if the Times had noted that the “victim” didn’t remember any assault by Kavanaugh, the fact that the book claimed to have uncovered new allegations of sexual misconduct would itself have likely poisoned the prospect of right-wing sales. There was a big right-wing audience for Hemingway’s and Severino’s book, as Bedard notes, but that work was about the attempt to railroad Kavanaugh last year. The scumbag villains were the Democrats, not the justice himself. If Pogrebin and Kelly thought there’d be a conservative audience for their work just because the right is supposedly interested in all things Kavanaugh, that was a mistake.
Betting on interest from a left-wing audience was sounder given the new allegations in the book and the anniversary of the hearings. It looked like progressive leaders were about to help Pogrebin and Kelly out too by revisiting the subject of Kavanaugh, inspired by the book’s release. Just within the past 10 days, both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have called for impeaching Kavanaugh. But it was the authors’ hard luck that those impeachment demands were completely overtaken by a serious effort to impeach the president, rendering the Kavanaugh stuff an afterthought. Politically speaking, it was like getting your big break in 1964 as the act that went on before the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. There’s only one news story in blue America right now and for the foreseeable future.
On top of all that, Democrats who lunged at the scoop in the NYT piece about a previously unknown accusation of sexual misconduct against him ended up being burned by the revelation later that the victim didn’t recall it. At that point, Dem pols understandably shied away from using the book as the foundation for a new PR campaign against the justice.
So, in the end, who was the book for? Lefties were wary of it, righties loathed it. The authors’ one hope of making it irresistibly newsworthy by landing an interview with Kavanaugh himself went up in smoke when he allegedly refused to go on record. It ended up pleasing nobody. Result: “Epic bomb.”