Friday, May 18, 2007

Heck of a Job, Zinsie!

The New Republic has an interesting article on Karl Zinsmeister, who would go from being the editor of the now defunct American Enterprise to being a domestic policy advisor to George W. Bush.

According to TNR, Zinsmeister ran TAE in a somewhat Bushian fashion, being both controlling and detached. He was also, it seems, a bit shady, using TAE to push his books, particularly Dawn Over Baghdad as subscription premiums, even when they didn't work very well.

At first, these mailings offered multiple options for subscribing, some of which included a Zinsmeister book, some of which did not. The magazine's then-business manager, Garth Cadiz, says that the offers without Zinsmeister's books invariably received better response rates. Yet, in June 2005, Zinsmeister eliminated the option to get a subscription through direct mail without buying one of his books as well. The move was a flop, according to Cadiz. Around that time, subscriptions, which had been climbing for years, began falling. . . . Zinsmeister also printed ads for his books free of charge in the magazine. In 2004, Zinsmeister wrote an e-mail to his editors concerning Dawn Over Baghdad: "I have promised Encounter [his publisher] we will run Dawn ads in TAE for the indefinite future in return for them paying for some of the media interview travel. . . . " According to a former AEI employee, it was widely known at the think tank that "Karl was in it for Karl," and his use of the magazine to promote his own books was "sort of like a running joke." The books were shipped to Zinsmeister's home in Cazenovia and mailed to subscribers from there. Over three years, according to an e-mail David Gerson would later send to Zinsmeister after he had announced his plans to step down, AEI purchased 13,700 Zinsmeister books at a cost of $131,000. And what a gift that proved to be for Zinsmeister, as AEI's purchases wound up accounting for 45 percent of the total sales of Dawn Over Baghdad's hardcover edition--and more than half its paperback sales.

I wrote for TAE several times, but never had any contact with Zinsmeister. My last review for them was killed although nobody ever told me why--I just received a kill fee in the mail. At about the same time, The American Conservative also killed one of my reviews but they had a good reason and they handled it in a classy fashion, unlike TAE.

Zinsmeister's style at TAE makes him a pretty good fit for Bush, as the TNR article notes,
"like the president he now serves, Zinsmeister long ago mastered the trick of railing against Washington while arrogating to himself as much of the city's power and privilege as he could grab."


sean scallon said...

Incompetents to draw each other. Birds of a feather.

Scott Walter said...

Anyone who actually knew Karl would laugh at this libel. Nice that your ignorance didn't stop you from being uncharitable.