The meaningless book titles of 2016 presidential candidates

On Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released a book. In the book, Cruz recalls the time, while clerking for former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, he wound up watching Internet porn with Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The case in question was about the constitutionality of a law regulating online porn. The justices, who weren’t particularly Web-savvy, were receiving a tutorial about how easy it is to find porn on the Internet.

It was awkward. And not only because Rehnquist and O’Connor, who used to date during law school, spent the entire time in painful silence.

But also, what an amazing story! However, you’d never think Cruz’s literary manifesto contained anything of the sort based on its title—after all, the book is called A Time For Truth, not I Know It When I See It. 

A Time For Truth is a perfect example of the title of a book written by an ambitious politician. It manages to a project an air of bravery and competence in the face of adversity while giving basically no information about anything.

The harder a politician is running for office, the more meaningless their book titles. When Barack Obama came out with his first book in 1995, he was still two years away from being elected to the Illinois State Senate. His book was entitled Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, indicating it would probably be about a) the story of Obama’s father, who immigrated from Africa, b) racial formation in the United States, and c) how the legacy of Obama’s father shaped his life and worldview. When Obama came out with his second book, just over a decade later, he was in the process of planning his run for the Oval Office. It was called The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, a title that indicates… umm… something?

As the 2016 presidential campaign grinds along endlessly, it’s clear pretty much every major candidate in the race thinks writing a book is a crucial part of the campaign process. Also, since super PACs can buy thousands of copies of book to give to donors, dollars raised by a supposedly independent, third-party group can go right into your own personal pocket. Bonus!

Here is a list of books written by people who are currently running for president, ranked on the terrible meaninglessness of their titles, along with an analysis of the specific pieces of information those titles give to potential readers:

Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President – Lincoln Chafee

  • George W. Bush was a bad president.
  • Congress did a poor job of providing checks on the George W. Bush administration.
  • Chafee, formerly a Republican, is a Democrat now.

The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class – Bernie Sanders

  • One time, Bernie Sanders gave a long speech.
  • It was about how big corporations are evil.
  • It was exactly like every other speech Sanders has given, except longer.

On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting for – Rick Perry

  • Rick Perry had a fun time in the Boy Scouts.
  • Rick Perry is afraid the Boy Scout may change in a way he doesn’t like.
  • And what’s the third one there… I can’t, I’m sorry… oops.

Trump: How to Get Rich – Donald Trump

  • Donald Trump is a rich person willing to share the secrets to his success.
  • Trump believes being born the heir to a real estate empire is something readers of his book can replicate.

Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution – Jeb Bush

  • This book is about immigration.
  • It ends with a some sort of concrete policy proposal. Maybe.

God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy – Mike Huckabee

  • This book is brought to you by the letter “G.”

Tough Choices: A Memoir – Carly Fiorina

  • As a “memoir,” the book probably contains biographical details.
  • Some of those biographical details presumably involve deciding between two or more options.

Hard Choices – Hillary Clinton

America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great – Ben Carson

  • America used to be a great country, but is not anymore. 
  • Ben Carson is great at making things great again.

Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge – Scott Walker

  • Scott Walker was formerly the governor of a state.
  • Or, he might currently be the governor of the state.
  • Or, the book is about the construction of a device for maintaining uniform speed regardless of changes of load, as by regulating the supply of fuel or working fluid.

A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America – Ted Cruz

  • Ted Cruz will not lie to you, at least for the duration of the book.

My Story – Lindsey Graham

  • Lindsey Graham had things happen to him in the past.

American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone – Marco Rubio

  • Nothing.

A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America – Jim Webb

  • Nothing.

Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America – Rand Paul

  • Nothing.

Leadership and Crisis – Bobby Jindal

  • Literally nothing.

American Patriots: Answering the Call to Freedom – Rick Santorum

  • Somehow less than nothing.

Photo by CCAC North Library/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Aaron Sankin

Aaron Sankin

Aaron Sankin is a former Senior Staff Writer at the Daily Dot who covered the intersection of politics, technology, online privacy, Twitter bots, and the role of dank memes in popular culture. He lives in Seattle, Washington. He joined the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2016.