One for the books

Costco finds out quickly what sells in the marketplace of ideas

Costco announced this week it would restock its shelves with a popular new book by a noted critic of President Obama.

It’s still perplexing as to why the retailer pulled the title in the first place.

Dinesh D’Souza’s America: Imagine a World Without Her was rising in sales and on the eve of a major marketing push to coincide with the release of its accompanying documentary film when one of the nation’s largest retailers made the decision before the Fourth of July holiday to have it yanked from all store shelves by July 15.

Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti had said the retail chain pulled D’Souza’s book because it was not selling well and wasn’t on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

But the oddly timed decision only fueled speculation that the Seattle-based retailer, whose founders are major Obama supporters, pulled the book for political reasons. Thousands of angry Costco shoppers threatened to cancel their store memberships, and protested the decision on the company’s Facebook page.

Late Tuesday, Costco relented and issued a statement on the page saying the movie had renewed customer interest in the book.

“Therefore, we have made the decision to reorder the book,” the company said.

As of Friday, the book was the No. 1 seller on Amazon.com. It is scheduled to debut on The New York Times’ best-seller list Sunday.

It’s easy to see how conservatives might accuse the warehouse chain of judging and jettisoning the book based on its pointed criticism of Obama’s progressive policies. Costco’s close relationship with the president is no secret – a political reporter for The Washington Post even described it as a “romance” that might just be “the most successful union of a politician and a supermarket in American history.”

Costco co-founder and recently retired CEO James Sinegal was a speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. That same year he authored an email blast sent out by the Obama campaign and played host to a $50,000-a-plate fund-raiser dinner at his Seattle home.

Susan Brotman, wife of Costco co-founder Jeff Brotman, was an Obama campaign bundler in 2012 who collected more than $500,000 in donations. Costco itself has given $100,000 to Obama and another $100,000 to Priorities USA, the pro-Obama super-PAC.

Costco is a fairly recent and very welcome addition to the Augusta area, so we hope this brouhaha isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We’d simply urge the retailer to take note of its special place in the American marketplace – and to accept its place in the sometimes contentious marketplace of ideas.

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