German Publishing's Man in the White House

The publicly funded Franco-German "cultural" channel Arte did not waste any time celebrating the dawn of a new era in transatlantic relations. This is the same Arte, incidentally, whose earlier contributions to transatlantic understanding have included a report accusing American soldiers of beheading Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War and a portrayal of President George W. Bush with devil's horns and fangs. On the day after the election of Barack Obama to succeed the outgoing demon-president, the channel broadcast a 70-minute-long special, live from Washington, with the highly imaginative title "A Black Man in the White House" [Un Noir à la maison blanche]. (To their credit, the editors at Arte-Germany chose to abjure the racist impulses of their French counterparts and titled the show instead "Obama: A New Wind in the White House" [Frischer Wind im Weissen Haus].) The guests on the program included Annette Heuser, the executive director of the Bertelsmann Foundation's new Washington, DC, office. The influential German foundation set up shop in DC just this past spring, presumably in anticipation of the impending "change." Host Daniel Leconte revealed that the foundation had even helpfully prepared "a little aide, a little white book" for the incoming president on how to conduct his relations with Europe. He was careful to interject that the "white book" had been prepared for both candidates.

In any case, Bertelsmann can be sure that Mr. Obama will read its "little aide, its little white book" very carefully. For -- as Ms. Heuser failed to disclose and as was not mentioned either in an op-ed on Obama that she published in the Washington Post in July -- the Bertelsmann Corporation happens to be the president-elect's principal source of income. It was Bertelsmann, namely, that agreed to pay Obama a reported $1.9 million in advances for a three-book deal that the then-senator-elect signed with its fully owned American subsidiary, the Random House publishing group, in December 2004. And who knows? The real amount of the deal might well be more than the reported amount. After all, it was only in April of this year that we discovered that a reported $10 million book deal signed by former President Bill Clinton with Bertelsmann/Random House in 2001 had in fact been worth $15 million. (See my earlier PJM report on "Bill Clinton's German Paymasters.")