Every politician since George Washington has followed a time-honored tradition for announcing his or her interest in the presidency: By "writing" an autobiography.
The politician usually hires a ghost writer to handle this odious task or they recycle a bunch of old material from speeches and articles they've already written, and they mash this literary equivalent of cold leftovers into a book with a vaguely flattering picture of themselves on the cover. The book sells reasonably well if the politician is called "intriguing" by enough magazines, although nobody actually reads the wretched thing, and eventually it ends up on the remainders table at Border's, where snide teens buy it for $4.99 and give it to their relatives as joke gifts at Christmas time.
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal just announced he would engage in this ritual waste of wood pulp. His book "about his life and policy ideas" will be published by Regnery Publishing sometime in 2010. And Jindal is very clear about how much time he'll spend writing this book: Not very much:
Much of the work on the book will be done by a co-author, Peter Schweizer, a Florida writer whose previous work includes nonfiction books about the Bush family and President Reagan and a novel co-authored with former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.
"One of the reasons I'm doing this with a co-author is to make sure there's somebody else doing a lot of the heavy lifting," Jindal said, adding that he expects that most of his work on the book will be in the evenings and on weekends.
"This isn't something that will take a lot of my time," he said.
Well, thank goodness! Nobody wants to hear a politician's "original" words or ideas anyhow.
Having published the book, Jindal may run for Senate in 2010 or the presidency in 2012 or who knows, maybe all of those things. He'll have a lot of free time, since he won't be wasting it writing his own books.
Of course, Governor Jindal says he has no interest in doing anything beyond running for re-election in 2011, but that is precisely the sort of thing a politician will swear on his mother's grave shortly before he announces he is running for a more glamorous office.
Political publishing expert Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.