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I Was Elected to Lead, Not to Read, Ctd.

August 23, 2011

National Review Online updates us on the president’s reading list:

Obama purchased five books on his trip to the Vineyard bookseller Bunch of Grapes: Marianna Baer’s “Frost,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” Daniel Woodrell’s “Bayou Trilogy,” Emma Donoghue’s “Room,” and Ward Just’s “Rodin’s Debutante.”

…White House aides listed for reporters the three books Obama brought with him to the Vineyard: two more novels — Abraham Verghese’s “Cutting for Stone” and David Grossman’s “To the End of the Land” — and one nonfiction work — Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.”

Cool! I’ve been meaning to read “Room.” What a neat little bit of trivia, and I…oh…what’s that National Review? Oh…you found a way to pointlessly criticize the president? I see, so “the near-absence of nonfiction sends the wrong message for any president, because it sets him up for the charge that he is out of touch with reality.” Well, it’s kind of hard to accuse anyone of being out of touch with reality when you’re criticizing a vacation reading list. So I guess that settles th– What? You have more?

“The Bayou Trilogy” has received excellent reviews, but it is a mystery series. While there is nothing wrong with that per se, not every presidential reading selection is worth revealing to the public. Bill Clinton, for example, used to love mysteries, but he did not advertise the titles of what he once called “my little cheap thrills outlet.” “Room” is another well-received novel, but it is about a mother and child trapped in an 11-by-11-foot room. This claustrophobic adventure does not strike me as the right choice for someone trying to escape the perception that he is trapped in a White House bubble.

SRSLY. Why would our president tell us about all the books he’s reading? Maybe it’s because a) he didn’t — it was reported by the media; and b) because he would be accused of elitism if he called them “cheap thrills” — and nobody likes elitists, right National “per se” Review? And hey, maybe he would feel less claustrophobic if, I don’t know, he didn’t have to account for every tiny action down to the books he buys on vacation. So if we’re done here…oh, okay…

This year’s list suggests that Obama needs to consider the messages sent by his reading more carefully. According to Mickey Kaus, the Obama list is “heavy on the wrenching stories of immigrant experiences, something the President already knows quite a bit about.” For this reason, Kaus feels that the list reveals an intellectually incurious president. Either that, or it is “a bit of politicized PR BS designed to help the President out.” In that case, he notes, “it’s sending the wrong message.” Either way, the annual book list should be a relatively easy way to make the president appear to be on top of things and in control. This year’s list, alas, reveals a president who appears to be neither.

If Americans cared this much about the books the president was reading then I don’t think National Review would have much of an audience. This story should have been an easy way to relay a little bit of interesting fluff. Alas, it send the message that, other than what he’s reading on vacation, the only more worthless thing President Obama could be reading is National Review Online’s story about what he’s reading on vacation.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Danielle permalink
    August 23, 2011 3:50 pm

    “According to Mickey Kaus, the Obama list is ‘heavy on the wrenching stories of immigrant experiences, something the President already knows quite a bit about.’ For this reason, Kaus feels that the list reveals an intellectually incurious president. ”

    …Having read (and enjoyed) “Cutting for Stone,” I have to say President Obama could find little to identify with.

    • Danielle permalink
      August 23, 2011 3:51 pm

      Oh dear…how do I correct my own typos? We all know “readed” is not a word!

      • Mike permalink*
        August 23, 2011 3:53 pm

        Doned and doned.

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