What Books on America Has Sarah Palin Read?

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susan-b-anthony.jpg
(Suffragist Susan B. Anthony)
Despite the superficial celebration by some and criticism by others that George W. Bush says that he doesn’t read many of America’s leading papers, the 43rd President of the United States reads a great deal of quality work.
Besides issuing occasional reading lists of what he is powering through, President Bush has impressed me on three significant occasions with regard to what he was reading.
The first occurred in March 2001 when I learned that Bush had spent part of a weekend reading Robert Kaplan’s Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. Bush had taken the book with him to Camp David and read it during a weekend committed to preparing for a meeting with then Japan Prime Minister Yoshir Mori — dubbed the NPL Summit (NPL referred to Japan’s massive problems with non-performing loans and a stalled economy, which ironically seems to be the case in America today).
Then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was nudging Bush towards a neo-realist view of America’s foreign policy position and called Robert Kaplan to come in and offer Bush several “tutorials” on what a realist would do during a time of transition in the international system. As part of Bush’s prep work, he thoroughly read Tartary and had it annotated with his own scribbles and many pages earmarked.
Kaplan’s book is a quite good, original treatment of the Middle East and Caucasus — but it’s also heavy stuff, not very well designed for readers with attention deficit disorder or those who need a lot of pictures to lure them through.
On another occasion, I heard Bush on C-Span with Brian Lamb discussing what he was reading. Bush referred to Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, a book I have read thoroughly twice and which won not only that year’s Pulitzer Prize but also the Washington Prize, the largest cash award for founding era histories partly governed by Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience on which I sit on the Advisory Council.
Bush knew the Hamilton book. I knew he knew it from his discussion with Brian Lamb and his confident, specific references to nuanced parts of the book that would not have been easy for someone who had been handed just crib notes. Bush had read this 856 page book masterpiece on one of the key sculptors and enablers of the American nation.
On another news show, unfortunately I can’t remember whether it was with Tim Russert or Larry King or some other celebrity news anchor, Bush kept referring to various biographies he had been reading about American presidents and other world leaders. He stated that he had read biographies on virtually all of the American presidents, and on the founding fathers who were involved in the forging of America’s political system — including Franklin and Hamilton — and then others who did get to the top office like John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and of course, George Washington.
Bush wanted to stay on the subject of the leaders he had studied and the challenges they had faced when the news anchor, as I recall, kept trying to shift the topic to something less memorable. Bush had read Churchills’ works and about Churchill, and Mao, and Adenauer, and de Gaulle.
And while less impressive to me, we know for certain that Bush read and was deeply moved by works by Nathan Sharansky and Bernard Lewis. He invited the famous Yale historian and intellectual giant John Lewis Gaddis to conversations in the White House.
No matter where one may sit on the political spectrum and whether one believes or not that George W. Bush served his nation and our system of checks and balances and civil society well, the notion that he is entirely anti-intellectual and that his only pals were baseball franchise owners and oil men is contrived mystique.
Underneath the fake rough veneer made flamboyantly rougher with his less frequent brush clearing sojourns in the hot August heat in Crawford, Texas — George W. Bush is an incredibly well read national leader.
To be clear, I don’t think Bush’s deeds have made the nation safer or more prosperous — but I go into great detail here to establish a benchmark for knowledge about America’s and mankind’s great challenges, a point of comparison for anyone who aspires to the highest office in the land.
Bush ranks low on many contemporary rankings comparing the success of presidencies. He has been called anti-intellectual and incurious by many. I don’t buy it — but he serves well as a model that conservatives would be willing to consider as a standard for the presidency.
What has Sarah Palin read?
Could she have managed to stay afloat amongst the nation’s leading thinkers and intellectuals and political mavericks and bosses during the Constitutional convention. Would she have followed the issues. Would she have voted for ratification — for the system of checks and balances so complexly assembled and for which Hamilton, Madison and others so strongly argued for?
This will sound odd, but I think George W. Bush would have done well at the Constitutional convention. He would have been among the more thuggish, cautious lot perhaps — and if not at the Convention, he might have been pals with Aaron Burr, sort of the Tom DeLay of the day.
Many don’t like George W. Bush — but he would have been a player amongst the powerful in the early days of this country’s formation had he lived then.
I don’t know whether he would have been a constructive or destructive force when the nation was struggling to put itself together — but I can see from what I know of the incumbent President now living a mile down from me at 1600 Pennsylvania that he would have understood what was going on.
Bush would have read Plutarch, Cicero and Machiavelli.
But my hunch tells me that Sarah Palin has read few if any of the great books — or read much on America’s greatest leaders, or read about the fragility of process and the passions raging at the Constitutional Convention.
I honestly don’t know what she has read. She could issue a list of books she says she has worked through — but I think that if ABC has another shot at her or if any other journalists get to spend any time on this uncertain gamble for the second highest office in the land that they give her a book test.
Ask her what she has read and quiz her a bit. What leaders in American history does she admire. What can she tell us about the Federalist papers, or about many or any of America’s best and not so great presidents? What does she know about womens’ suffrage and Susan B. Anthony? or Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass?
I doubt at the moment her experience as a leader appropriate for the nation — but my assessment of Sarah Palin could be nudged into better territory if I had evidence that she had done some self-teaching about the nation and had devoured books about our leaders, our wars, and our periods of innovation, peace and prosperity.
Matt Damon may want to know if she thinks dinosaurs lived 4,000 years ago as a benchmark for support or opposition.
I want to know more — I want to know what she knows about America.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

62 comments on “What Books on America Has Sarah Palin Read?

  1. Susann Jones says:

    Mrs Palin became one of the politicians that got mocked and dissed badly during here campaign. For good reasons as the title of your article alone does state.
    On a larger scale you just cannot hide your level of education – or – the lack thereof.

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  2. Michael says:

    2 years later… would the question evoked still bear relevance? Isn´t it with seeing that time has moved on and the central figure is not in a public position anymore like yesterday´s news?
    Behind us alltogether.

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  3. Marcyle Woodard says:

    Why does everyone talk about Sarah Palin not being ready or her prparing herself for the POTUS? It was inevitable that a beautiful woman with no education would try to become POTUS. A woman of the streets, a porno star, or someone like Sarah Palin. I have read a great deal about this woman on the Anchorage Daily News web site and the blog comments. There is also a lot of infomation about her on the internet. This is a person who should never even be considered as POTUS. Someone should write an informed book about her, exposing her serious character flaws. At this time the Anchorage Daily News seems to be censoring comments criticizing Sarah Palin because of her complaints to the news paper.

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  4. CS says:

    Question. When the vapid and vacuous John Edwards was the
    vice-presidential nominee in 2004, did anyone ask him what
    books he had read? Remember him -just four years from chasing
    ambulances when he was chosen? Do you think Joe Biden reads
    the great books? Seriously? Please.

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  5. David says:

    Why this post? These are factual observations coupled with some of Steve’s interpretation of what they might mean. The possibility does exist, in the words of one of the character’s in Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat,” that “they don’t mean nothin’,” but I still want to know whatever facts there are regarding our current president, and I want any observations that can be offered by informed, thoughtful commentators. I keep trying my damnedest to understand this cataclysmic debacle know as the presidency of G.W. Bush, although I also find myself wondering to what extent it is actually his presidency, as opposed to the extent to which it is a franchise for which he is the de jure franchise holder. I would really like to understand the actual working dynamic between Bush and Cheney.
    I should add I have less than zero respect for Bush as president. Sarah Palin I am unable to take seriously as anything more than the celebrity du jour, and that were she to become vice-president, and given McCain’s health, quite possibly president, I would then be hard pressed to take seriously America as a coherent political entity. The ongoing momentum of a couple of centuries of existence as a nation which reached a pinnacle during the 20th century can sustain us just so far and no farther.
    And given that Ross Perot led both G.H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in the spring of 1992, I tend to consider it blind-assed luck that we wound up with Clinton as president. Blind-assed luck can also sustain us only every so often, the last instance before Clinton being the election of FDR. I am hoping for one more instance of political clemency with an Obama presidency. Actually, I am also hoping clemency is still a possibility, considering where and what America is at this point.
    And given the actual nature of what are referred to as swing voters, the burden is now on Obama to win this election. These voters are not actually going to figure anything out. The enlightenment notion of voters just does not describe these people, partly because it requires actually knowing things, and partly because it requires applying reason, not emotion, and intellectual discernment, not backyard bbq likeability or hotness.
    It is ultimately Obama versus a very powerful political machine which has no intention of relinquishing what it perceives as its rightful stranglehold on the presidency.
    The fourth estate is of no particular help because it isn’t all that much of a fourth estate, as demonstrated rather sickeningly in the run up to the invasion of Iraq. But the fourth estate must, and will, give both Obama and McCain full attention. Obama has to use that stage to his fullest, most effective advantage. The opportunity exists. May we be lucky enough as a nation that Obama does parlay that opportunity into victory November 4.
    The last thing the world needs is a McCain-Palin neocon administration, which would likely be even more disastrous than the Bush-Cheney neocon administration.

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  6. DavidT says:

    Steve
    Thanks for the kind and generous response.
    I agree with you that Alaska’s governor should know more than she appears to know about America and her leaders. My primary point however, was to take such a specific approach of criticism leaves one open to be end-run around it. To put another way — if you criticize or question someone’s fitness for a job based on a lack of certain experience or knowledge then you would be wise to be sure that there aren’t others who don’t lack that experience or knowledge who would be equally unfit for that job.
    Please forgive me for point out that this particular criticism to me is a kind of “elitist” criticism. Its a bit like the criticism over her not knowing what the “Bush Doctrine” is. I don’t fault her for that and I honestly think we could have a very able Vice President who didn’t know how to answer that question (much less name a particular country’s leader). As Howard Gardner, the well-known education scholar has argued, its much more important for school kids today to be able to compare the reasons we fought the American Civil War with the reasons we fought the Iraq War of W Bush’s Administration than to know what years the Civil War was fought. And yes the standards for qualifications to the vice-presidency are higher than for schoolchildren, but the general concept I think applies equally here.
    In other words, its more her knowledge development, curiosity, and thought development that are worrisome than what she’s read. My guess is that there are people such as Governor Palin that can cite Abraham Lincoln, George C. Marshall, and Woodrow Wilson who would still see these prominent American’s life stories through a certain worldview which disqualifies one for high political office (at least in this country).
    As for the Hamilton comment glad you took it the way you did. I hope you’ll accept my candor on this topic.
    I actually was giving you a hard time for mentioning the Chernow book, which I know was terrific, since I felt that your reference to it seemed to me as much about pointing to your prominent affiliation with the organization that gave this prize to the book as to your primary point that our current president reads. You are unusually successful and well-connected and I feel that you have nothing to prove to your readership on this score.

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  7. Steve Clemons says:

    DavidT — great note.
    I agree that there are some problems with the kind of comparison I set up — but I do think that the general question of what Sarah Palin knows about America itself and its great and not great leaders is legitimate.
    I really liked the John Lewis Gaddis comment that I hadn’t seen — thanks for it.
    And as far as the Washington Prize — good catch on your part to note that I sit on the Advisory Board of the Washington College Starr Center which shares governance of the prize with two other groups — including the Mt Vernon Ladies Association. Just to be clear, I wasn’t part of the screening committee for the book prize and have played no role in the books selected each year, including the book, Alexander Hamilton.
    Many thanks for a superb comment….this is the kind of discussion I like to have.
    best, steve clemons

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  8. DavidT says:

    Just to add to the commentary…from the most recent (at least online) issue of the “American Interest” by John Lewis Gaddis of Yale University (considered the “Dean” of Cold War Historians and referenced in Steve’s original post):
    “So what might shift contemporary impressions of President Bush? I can only speak for myself here, but something I did not expect was the discovery that he reads more history and talks with more historians than any of his predecessors since at least John F. Kennedy. The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they’ve appeared, and I’m hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I’ve found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn’t read the latest book on Lincoln, or on—as Bush refers to him—the ‘first George W.’ I’ve even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results. ”
    The trouble with Steve’s line of argument, however, in my view, is this tendency to try to measure someone by some sort of quantitative method. I don’t know what’s been on Palin’s reading list. But listening to her convinces me that being a heartbeat from the presidency is very frightening — even if she’s read everything ever written by George Kennan, Hans Morgenthau, and Raymond Aron.
    To me this is much like the “experience argument” as applied to Obama (something Steve has done frequently). Just because he’s only been on the national stage for four years alone doesn’t disqualify him for the presidency. I would like Obama to be a bit more seasoned in national politics than he is but to focus on this one criteria by itself is silly for the simple reason that if you do so then you should prefer that the former White House Chief of Staff, House Minority Whip, Political Science graduate student, and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney had more power in the Bush Administration. A wiser question to me is whether he is “experienced enough” and whether his judgment in combination with his experience will serve him well in the White House. I think on that measure he puts Senator Clinton to shame (just read the Atlantic Monthly’s profile of Clinton’s campaign in considering her judgment) as he did the other Democratic candidates.
    Is Palin experienced enough with good enough judgment to be vice-president? I think her response in the Gibson interview to being ready to be president without any reflection or hesitation makes one wonder. That her biggest accomplishment as mayor was the building of a sports facility on land that Wasilla didn’t definitively own I find close to disqualifying. And that she could so distort her role on the Bridge to Nowhere suggests that she won’t let what I thought was an important Christian value of “honesty” get in her way any more than Jimmy Swaggert would let his views of adultery get in the way of having a little fun makes me wonder how “Christian” conservatives can honestly not question her moral character (as much as I prefer to avoid such an approach) which they claim to be so important to them.
    Thus even if Thucydides, Gibbon, and the Hamilton biography (which won the Washington prize given by the center on whose board Steve resides:)) are prominently displayed on her bookshelf (and there are quite a few dim people who have read an impressive array of writings), she doesn’t belong on a major party ticket.

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  9. arthurdecco says:

    Noted, Mr. Clemons. I’m tired of the subject too! wink
    PS I should send you some new pics.

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  10. Steve Clemons says:

    arthur — I like you very much — your pics and your posts. But
    I’m not just going to jump on to the bandwagon and agree with
    you. i was on the floor at the XCel Center when Palin spoke –
    and I knew from that moment that she would connect with many
    and change the dynamics of this election. I wrote this — and it
    prompted hundreds of emails hating what I wrote. I don’t know
    what to say other than that to deride someone as certifiably
    crazy — or someone that everyone would reject right away — is
    at odds with reality. She has huge support, McCain is ahead in
    this race, and trying to assert that this trends shouldn’t be
    doesn’t make them not so.
    My piece was written largely for independents and conservatives
    in the political class and the media. This piece was not meant
    for you or for those on the left. You have no space to consider
    my argument because the disdain for Bush and his skill sets is
    so large. I’m trying to take Palin down a few notches by
    comparing her to someone many conservatives like.
    That was my purpose — take it or leave it. I have other things
    to do now. I want to take you seriously — and have, but to
    assert as you do that anyone should see Palin as flawed as you
    see her is simply not how the real world works.
    It is that world that I have to be engaged in — and I am actively
    engaged in it.
    So, thanks for the comments — but I don’t have more time for
    this subject. My blog had a purpose and I stand by it.
    best, steve clemons

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  11. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks for the note RAK. Josh Marshall is a very close friend of mine and am glad he recommended both of you to the blog long ago….but he and I do things differently.
    My comments about Hagel and Chafee are sincere — but I admit that I occasionally speak to them through TWN. The Bolton battle, it its time, was a big deal. And my cultivation of dissident Repubicans has been a key interest of mine — so if you note calibration towards that end, then you are perceiving correctly.
    I’m not part of the left blogging world — nor the MSM. I’m using this blog to think, to discuss, and to move the policy needle. I’m not just a commentator. I am trying to move some of the people I am writing about — and to offend some others.
    I respect that that may not be your kind of thing — as my objectives may not be yours. But I’ve had more success than most — and very few have had the substantial success chronicling the progress and defeat of the neocons than TWN has. And Hagel and Chafee have been great allies of this blog in that effort.
    Best regards,
    Steve Clemons

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  12. arthurdecco says:

    I appreciate you responding to my seriously asked question, Mr. Clemons, though I have to ask you again to carefully read this excerpt from my original post:
    “Surely Palin’s unsuitability for the role of Vice President is obvious to anyone who thinks with more than their brain stem. How bringing George Bush’s supposed reading list into play as a method of demonstrating Palin’s profound ignorance of American history or it’s political culture – while at the same time offhandedly praising Bush’s political curiosity and intelligence based on a handful of books he’s claimed to have read and on your own wistful fantasies of him engaged equally with the Founding Fathers of the United States of America is beyond absurd. It bears the hallmarks of the worst in modern American television. Fatuous and fawning, bereft of fact or even creative fantasy. If I missed the point, please correct me. I want to believe you had a point to make. I want to believe I’m just too dim-witted to recognize the subtlety of your argument or the rationale behind it just now.”
    Do you honestly think your explanation honestly addressed my concerns?
    IMO, it doesn’t matter what books George Bush’s eyes have passed or glazed over. Can you point to one instance where his reading or so-called study of history has tempered his disastrous foreign policy decisions?
    I can’t think of one.
    It all comes back to the elephant in the room – the fact that he’s certifiable. Period. And, in my opinion, in no way should he be considered a basis for comparison with anyone else presently running for high office, no matter how unqualified they might be.
    Let’s hope that Ms. Palin isn’t crazy – though she’s certainly profoundly ignorant and fundamentally delusional. At least that’s what I believe, based on her public utterances and the descriptions of her I’ve read written by those who intimately know her. Perhaps you’re clairvoyant and she will ultimately be exposed as nutty but right now I don’t think is the time to be comparing her to George Bush with George coming out on top in your evaluation. After all, can she proudly claim to be gleefully responsible for the deaths of over a MILLION people, like George Bush Jr., the stubby shrub can?

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  13. MarkL says:

    RAK,
    I also came to TWN when TPM recommended it.
    This blog is still sui generis.
    The problem I have with Steve’s last argument is that Cheney and his henchmen are the architects of the theories of extended Executive power which Bush has employed to his benefit. Whatever Bush reads is for narcissistic pleasure, IMO; he compares himself (favorably, always) with the greats.

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  14. RAK says:

    To the point of the original post – Bush may read some of these books but he doesn’t seem to get much from them. Obviously Bush is no dummy, but he is not statesman material and wouldn’t be at any time.
    To the point of my earlier post – I do think this blog suffers from what some would call the “MSM” syndrome. Too much artificial “balance”, not enough calling issues as they are. Isn’t Mr. Clemons in the business of non-partisanship via the NAF? Might not that inform his views here, for better or worse? As he says, he’s on the inside. That has to limit what he can say here.
    The specific post in question is probably not the best example of writing for “balance” or “access” but the blog itself seems written for those purposes fairly often. Look at the championing of certain political figures from time to time (i.e. Chafee, Hagel). Sometimes this is very interesting, sometimes it just seems over the top. This blog is best when it takes somewhat bigger chances, like the effort to derail Bolton.
    As Mr. Clemons points out, this is his blog. So he should do it his way. I find it useful. But I think one needs to remember why it exists and understand its limitations.
    By the way, I’ve been here since it was recommended by TPM, which I think was close to the beginning.

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  15. DonS says:

    One of the things Steve notes in his post, which I have opined on far and wide for years, it’s that Bush is contrived.
    Essentially a Connecticut bred preppy, he has managed to sell himself to the country as a born and bred Texan, albeit the genteel kind. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    Bush distains the NE elite mentality, and has created this alter persona, complete with ersatz Texas drawl (pretty weird, no?). Why? Who knows? Possibly some formative disconnect at Yale, where he yelled his heart out as a cheer leader and champion drinker (weren’t we all?), but never achieved the respect that poppy did.
    Rejecting much of his background, and less than happy family life, he has cast about now for decades looking for a niche. As POA has noticed, as many of us have, he is still not comfortable in his skin.
    He may still be well read; I take Steve’s evidence at face value. But, emotionally speaking, I opt for his being a sick puppy.

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  16. Joe says:

    I trust your opinions Steve, but it’s hard for me to believe that someone who reads that much quality prose can so often fail to correctly conjugate verbs. The best way to improve your writing and/or speaking is by reading; the exposure to the quality of the materials generally improves your speaking and writing.
    I’m guessing maybe he is hiding comic books within those long tomes.

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  17. Steve Clemons says:

    Hey folks — sorry to be late to the party. RAK’s post does not bother me. I wish he was not so rude, but he hasn’t made a habit of it — but to arthurdecco who I know a bit better, I will tell you exactly why I wrote this post.
    First of all, what I write about Bush’s reading habits is true — truer than I know. I belong to a listserv that has some of the nation’s leading liberal writers on it. NONE of them like George W. Bush or think he’s a good President. I don’t think he’s a good president — and I make that clear (I think) in my post.
    But my article got discussed a bit amongst these writers and I learned of other complex books that various of them know that Bush read — they know because they interact here in Washington with insiders in and around Bush — or may have met or interviewed Bush themselves.
    Why does this matter? I’m not trying to white-wash Bush. I’m trying to make the argument that he’s shrewder, more knowledgable and read than people out in America know. He has expanded the powers of the Presidency in ways that make Nixon look shy and meek. Do you think someone with no understanding of power, leadership, and other leaders could have or would have done that — I don’t.
    But my piece was not designed to brown-nose George W. Bush…those folks do not like me for the most part. This piece was designed to take a US president who rides rather low in the rankings in the minds of most Americans and use him as a benchmark.
    As a benchmark, I am trying to say that Bush knows about the nation, its leaders, and its institutions. I provide some evidence of that – and since I wrote the article, I have found more.
    Sarah Palin, I suspect, does not. In comparison to Palin, GW Bush looks like a great scholar — and he’s not. He’s just a reader and a manipulator of power.
    Palin does not even meet the Bush bar — which I think is low.
    About Bush at the Constitutional Convention — of possibly being a player there — a dark rather than a constructive player perhaps, this is my view. I don’t buy the line that Bush is completely out of it.
    I think he has harmed the nation — absolutely. Hurt it very badly. I have written this many times — but he has constantly been underestimated. I won’t contribute to that underestimation.
    But Palin doesn’t measure up — or at least I dont think she does.
    So to RAK’s comments, they are just absurd. I gain no access to anyone with this post…
    This is my blog — and these are my questions. I want to know what Sarah Palin knows about America and its great Americans. You should care about that….but I don’t see other blogs, or even you arthur clamoring to know?
    By asking questions we learn about the deficits in others.
    RAK seems like a smart chap and would have known that my objective was not to slam Bush in this but to set him up as a benchmark to better understand what Palin might look like in her portfolio…and she just doesn’t seem to measure up.
    That is why I wrote the piece — and I stand by it. I’m not trying to reinforce things that RAK already thinks. He or she is a smart person — and can read or depart this blog as he/she likes.
    No worries — but my post has generated a great deal of discourse among other writers and communicators and people who think about these things.
    What did RAK’s comment do other than to generate a rude rebuke that went no where? Not much I think.
    But he/she is still welcome to post here.
    I’m in a great mood — though I do think that this election is going to be a nail-biter until the end.
    By the way, take a look at my latest post on CNN knocking the NY Times piece on book censorship.
    I wouldn’t mind if some of you readers would ask CNN to put up or shut up….either Carol Costello should go farther with her story and tell us what they know — or they should back off and apologize to Koch and the rest of us.
    Have to go now….thanks to all….
    And yes, POA gives it to me straight — and I to him.
    Same with you arthurdecco…..but don’t worry, I will keep going to those parties, and special dinners, and working the inside.
    It’s what I do.
    best — and have good Sunday evening.
    Steve Clemons

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  18. arthurdecco says:

    POA said: “…no matter his own motives, loyalties, and opinions, he, (Steve Clemons), has been a remarkably gracious host, allowing a wide range of opinions, even those that rudely call his character into question, such as RAK’s.”
    You’re absolutely correct, POA. Mr. Clemons continues to be a “remarkably gracious host”…and that remains the over-riding reason I read and comment here, (your insightful and erudite commentary notwithstanding). (wink)
    But as you stated earlier in your post, you have been as outspoken in your turn as RAK, if not as viscerally rude. I would hope that there is room for a wide range of opinions here – especially when those opinions come disturbingly close to capturing a suspected truth OR putting paid to subliminal suspicions.
    Besides, I would think Mr. Clemons is the go-to guy on this issue – not you or I. I’d still like to have an answer to my original question, not that I expect one:
    “Mr. Clemons, In spite of my struggling to find a rational excuse for these preposterous claims you’ve made about the most monstrous of all the American presidents to date, I’ve failed to explain to myself why you would feel the need to write this post at all. What purpose does it serve?”
    What purpose, indeed!?!

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  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Arthur. Its totally irrelevent what Steve’s motives are, or what his behind the scenes advocations are. Personally, I have been totally upfront with Steve about some of my strong misgivings about his motives and perceptions, and he in turn has let me know where he disagrees, or is even angered by my opinions or postings on his blog.
    But the fact remains that no matter his own motives, loyalties, and opinions, he has been a remarkably gracious host, allowing a wide range of opinions, even those that rudely call his character into question, such as RAK’s.
    RAK’s attack on Steve is disconcerting in its degree of venom. PARTICULARLY if one considers he is not a regular here, and he has remained silent while these not-assholes, jackasses or trolls like Tahoe use this forum for their own personal GOP propaganda outlet.
    Perhaps if RAK had dropped in ocassionaly to do something other than to take a dump on Steve’s head, I’d feel differently about his post. But, as it stands, I see RAK as someone that has an ax to grind, and did so with a bit of hit and run derision.

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  20. arthurdecco says:

    POA, I believe you’re way off the mark in your assessment of RAK’s post.
    IMO, he, (or she), delivered an honestly held opinion based on personal conviction, not “political reasons”.
    There are times when I mumble the same suspicions to myself. I asked Mr. Clemons for some clarification on his motivations in my original post. Let’s wait for his response before deriding someone’s apparently honest (if cruel) commentary.
    John Cougar Mellencamp sang, “you’ve got to stand for something or you’re gonna fall for anything”. http://www.mtv.com/lyrics/mellencamp_john/you_ve_got_to_stand_for_somethin/634655/lyrics.jhtml
    There are times when I wonder what Mr. Steve Clemons stands for because he seems to fall for or support the unlikeliest nonsense. (He’s not unlike the rest of us in that regard, I suppose…)

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  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Mr.Murder….
    The complete and total ignorance that you displayed about Troopergate when you commented that Palin “fired a cop that shouldn’t be a cop” calls into question your ability to advance credible arguments.
    Do you devote so little research to ALL the subjects you comment on, or just the ones that might cast Palin in an unfavorable light?
    When one reads a comment such as the one you made about Troopergate, one has to ponder whether you are just ignorant of the subject, or are actually seeking to mislead people.
    Its interesting that our two greatest defenders of Palin, you and this not-a-jackass or troll Tahoe, have both resorted to distortions (lies?) in your comments about Troopergate.
    So, I will ask you straight out and publically here…..
    Were you lying when you said Palin “fired a cop that shouldn’t be a cop”, or are you just remarkably ignorant of the topics you choose to comment on?

    Reply

  22. Mr.Murder says:

    Posted by MarkL – “Please. Here is my test for Bush: Can he add fractions. I would bet a large sum that he cannot.”
    Mission Accomplished, I win.
    Can Bush add fractions?
    Can Enron do fuzzy math?
    All he ever speaks in are half truths.
    He can deal fractions in spades.

    Reply

  23. Mr.Murder says:

    Yes, at the end of 1,000 years someone may actually compliment the Bush reich.
    (/FDR)

    Reply

  24. MarkL says:

    What next—Reagan was a great intellectual and man of letters?
    Please. Here is my test for Bush: Can he add fractions. I would bet a large sum that he cannot.

    Reply

  25. Mrs. K8 says:

    Some commenters such as Arthur (and others) have already made the points I would have wished to articulate.
    Let me just add that the notion that a man who proclaimed publicly THREE times (sorta Biblical, that) that a dictatorship would be much easier for him to deal with than a democracy “just so long as I’m the dictator” would have had something positive to contribute to the discussions of the Founding Fathers (as opposed to being tossed out on his ear by them from Philadelphia’s City Tavern) is laughable….
    laughable in a way that makes me physically ill.
    What a disturbing post this is, Steve. I don’t come back here too often, and when I do, I’m usually reminded right away why I don’t.

    Reply

  26. Paul Norheim says:

    Oh, I`m sure the President is reading a lot. For W., history is a
    comforting drug. He`s addicted to biographies of heroic
    leaders. There were dark moments in Lincoln`s life, in
    Churchill`s life. They made mistakes, even screwed up things.
    But in the light of history, they are heroes.
    W. has to make decisions, that`s his job. And W. makes plenty
    of decisions at any given hour that, two months or two years
    later seem disastrous. Whatever he does, it looks like he`s
    screwing up. Newspapers remind him of this every day.
    Biographies has exactly the opposite function. They never treat
    him like Maureen Dowd or Michael Moore. They say: “Hey, wait a
    minute, perhaps 50 or 150 years from now, your mistakes will
    be interpreted as wise, brave, far sighted actions? Perhaps
    history may show that you`re a genius?”
    That`s the nice thing about history: it`s lesson seems to be that
    politics is a lottery, and you`ll rarely live long enough to really,
    really know that you`re a failure.
    Being clueless at day time, forced to act in the chaos and
    uncertainties of the moment, even when your gut is silent and
    Dick and Condi are leading you in different directions, that`s a
    tough job. Then you need a fix in the evening, a voice assuring
    you that everything will be fine when we`ve passed the
    beginning of the end, the end of the beginning and all that stuff.
    And why should Sarah Palin feel an urge to read books? Religion
    is her drug. Praying is more comforting than reading.
    “Why this Clemons post?”
    To provoke reactions.

    Reply

  27. Tommy Hayes says:

    Bush is a man who moves his lips when he reads.

    Reply

  28. Helen Marshall says:

    You must be joking!!! “Bush would have read Plutarchy, Cicero..Machiavelli”…in what universe? I’m sorry but I don’t believe your starry-eyed view of Bush’s reading patterns…and if, for one minute, it were true that he is so well-read, how is it that he is so ignorant of history?

    Reply

  29. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I’ve purposely avoided this thread for a number of the reasons that Arthur touched on. Unfortunate that Arthur’s post was immediately followed by the back stabbing derision of RAK’s, whom I suspect has political reasons rather than any sort of moral objection to Steve’s motives and format.
    I do agree with Arthur that Bush’s complete dearth of character supercedes any intellectual redemption we may send his way based on a reading list that is highly suspect. If Bush has not seen a certain movie, and someone around the coffee table queries “Have you seen …..”, who can doubt that Bush is the fuckin’ idiot that claims to have seen the movie, then spends the next ten minutes nodding and saying “Yeah, I liked that part” every time someone brings up a scene.
    Who gives a shit what this monster has read? We ought to shove his treasonous ass in a ten by ten cell, and provide him with a reading list comprised of the geneological backrounds and history of every single human being that has perished because of his monstrous acts.
    Shove Palin in there with him, with a bible. If nothing else, the two of them can use it as toilet paper, because thats as close as they’re ever going to get to living up to Christian ideals.
    And, DonS, the first time I saw Bush’s walk, I knew that the man was unstable. He consciously poses himself, convinced he is the center of attention, yet he is terrified at the prospect. This is a man who is extremely uncomfortable in his own skin, to a degree I suspect has caused his life to be a living hell.

    Reply

  30. DonS says:

    Hi Arthur,
    Appreciate (I note that the use a verb without the [implied] noun or pronoun is too much like Bushspeak, so let me start over.
    I appreciate your comment and your questioning.
    I’ve said before that I work in the mental health field now — 30 years, bless em — though my training was initially in law. I’ve sat in front of thousands of clients and hundreds with a damaged and scary demeanor.
    Remote diagnosis is a no-no in my profession. I’ll break the rule simply to note that this is a guy who is not emotionally fit for the office he holds. And he obviously hasn’t compensated for his limitations by erecting a structure that serves the country or the world well.
    We all suffer the results. Some more than others.

    Reply

  31. arthurdecco says:

    RAK, re: “Why this Clemons post?”
    Well… I guess the poop can only pile up so high before the levee bursts.

    Reply

  32. RAK says:

    Arthur,
    Why this Clemons post?
    Unlike many blogs, meant to advance understanding, showcase a particular viewpoint, provide a living, etc., this one is designed to enhance the stature and further the career of its author. It is sometime used to promote “balance” for the sake of access. The blog is about its author, not the ideas incidentally contained within. If one keeps that in mind, straining the wheat from the chaff becomes a bit easier.

    Reply

  33. arthurdecco says:

    Re: Christian Sporleder Sep 13, 8:26AM & Sep 13, 1:02PM
    Powerful and convincing posts, Mr. Sporleder! I think you were saying eloquently and respectfully what I will say rudely and brutally:
    George Bush isn’t stupid. He isn’t badly read or under-educated. These non-issues aren’t his problem.
    His problem, (and ours), is that he’s mentally ill. Severely so.
    He has been described/diagnosed as an extreme Sociopath by people trained to recognize the symptoms – by professionals with the courage to write about his illness, even in this era’s oppressive climate of fear and loathing.
    Who cares what George Bush claims to read or what he talks about with the benefit of a telepromptor and/or black boxes taped to his sweaty, nervous back? Does anyone remember the fact that George even had to have his hand held and his lips moved by the dick, Cheney, when he surreptitiously appeared in front of the 911 Commission behind tightly closed doors? Even there, officially off the record, he couldn’t be trusted to stick to the script. And I’m convinced that’s because with George, it’s ALWAYS about George. Period. That’s what sociopaths are all about. Cheney was there to save him from himself.
    Mr. Clemons, In spite of my struggling to find a rational excuse for these preposterous claims you’ve made about the most monstrous of all the American presidents to date, I’ve failed to explain to myself why you would feel the need to write this post at all. What purpose does it serve?
    Surely Palin’s unsuitability for the role of Vice President is obvious to anyone who thinks with more than their brain stem. How bringing George Bush’s supposed reading list into play as a method of demonstrating Palin’s profound ignorance of American history or it’s political culture – while at the same time offhandedly praising Bush’s political curiosity and intelligence based on a handful of books he’s claimed to have read and on your own wistful fantasies of him engaged equally with the Founding Fathers of the United States of America is beyond absurd. It bears the hallmarks of the worst in modern American television. Fatuous and fawning, bereft of fact or even creative fantasy. If I missed the point, please correct me. I want to believe you had a point to make. I want to believe I’m just too dim-witted to recognize the subtlety of your argument or the rationale behind it just now.
    But no matter what you say, George jr. will remain to me a wobbly wanker – a dangerous, self-obsessed monster of limited imagination. Surely you’ve noticed the darting, nervous, sideways glances that take over his face when he finds it impossible to extricate himself from a sticky situation of his own making? He looks sometimes like he’s gonna break down and blubber if someone doesn’t come rescue him RIGHT NOW from his own contradictions and illogical arguments.
    We’ve all seen the side of him that revels in violence. You can see that for yourself in the way he talks about killing – in the way his eyes narrow, his lips tighten to a sneer, his breath quickens and his body thrusts forward with repressed excitement. This is a man who enjoys the murders he’s guilty of sponsoring.
    We all understand he’s incapable of telling the truth when a lie will do. How many examples of that can you remember off the top of your head?
    So, whachadooin? Who cares what books the fellow claims to have read or his fatuous opinions of them? Using him as a model to compare Palin to is obscene.
    Geez!

    Reply

  34. Colorado Independent says:

    Let’s get down to basics— has she read the U.S. Constitution, which a president and VP are sworn to protect and defend??
    Books may provide some indication of leanings, but if you don’t know what your job description is, you have a tough time being successful.
    I wish GWB had read it before he took office. Now, of course after what GWB has done, it is a much shorter document.

    Reply

  35. WigWag says:

    “Kaplan’s book is a quite good, original treatment of the Middle East and Caucasus — but it’s also heavy stuff…”
    Kaplan’s books are all good, but he tends to be a reactionary and goodness knows, that after you finish reading his books, any ordinary person would need an IV drip of prozac to cheer up. Kaplan’s work is very dark and depressing.
    For those Washington Note readers who might be interested, I would recommend two books on the same subjects and written in the same style as Kaplan’s.
    The author is actually the British version of Robert Kaplan and his name is Colin Thubron. While most Americans don’t know him, his name is a house hold word in England. Like Kaplan, he writes travel narratives about places few of us visit. And he and Kaplan have visited many of the same places.
    Just like one of Kaplan’s first books was about Yugoslavia (where Kaplan followed in the foot steps of Rebecca West’s Black Lamb Grey Falcon, the greatest travel book ever written), Thubron did the same.
    And like Kaplan, Thubron has travelled extensively in South Asia, Iran, the Far East and the Caucuses. His writing tends to be less dark and somewhat more optimistic than Kaplan’s and he is more politically progressive.
    Two books that I recommend in particular are:
    The Lost Heart of Asia
    By Colin Thubron
    Harper Collins Publishers
    1994
    Shadow of the Silk Road
    By Colin Thubron
    Harper Collins Publishers
    2007
    George Bush might not like these books, but Washington Note readers will!

    Reply

  36. zhak says:

    Steve, I respect your views very much. But I do not think Bush would have been a player back in the day. I think he would have been a loyalist who would have high-tailed it to Canada to wait out the fighting, confident that the British would prevail.
    Bush is a man whose life screams “privilege” … not principle.

    Reply

  37. Steve Clemons says:

    Christian — very interesting, thoughtful response.
    Thanks, steve clemons

    Reply

  38. Christian Sporleder says:

    That founders vs bush blog is a perfect concept.
    Bush would not have been a player in our country’s formation,
    the closest analogy from the Founders for him to play would be
    one of John Adams’ dissolute grandsons (also called George).
    Many of these guys were self-made men. Of the ones that
    weren’t, I can think of several scions of prominent families, the
    Lees, Adams, etc., who were players, but I can’t think of any that
    would have even gotten in the room with such a completely
    undistinguished, unsuccessful and nepotistic career prior to the
    Continental Congress.
    Aaron Burr was a war hero, a commander, a member of the
    Bar…i.e. a self-made man.
    Without the foreign capital bailouts, publicly-financed stadium
    deal, sweetheart deal cut-ins that Bush got purely from his
    father’s connections, and the failure of any of Bush-led ventures
    to end up in the black in his first four decades, I don’t see any of
    the colonies sending him to Philly.
    If in the unlikey event that Bush represented a colony at the
    congress, does anything in his record suggest a clear-eyed,
    pragmatic, room-working, deal-cutting operator?
    Especially forced to fend for himself as an individual, without the
    pose of an executive decision-making structure to sit atop off,
    cooling “deciding”?
    Congress, the press, our alliances, government contractors -
    either they get unconditional, unaccountable deals or they get a
    petulant, nose-cutting-off-to-spite-face, absolutist
    declaration. Bush would have been outside of the main thrust of
    affairs by his own nature, that of pose-striking, empty gestures,
    and rhetoric unmatched by reality.
    Bush shouldn’t have been misunderestimated. But he’s also as
    much a product of a moment in time, the tail end of the mod
    conservative revolution, the logical conclusion of a unique set of
    circumstances and becoming president for him was probably an
    unlikely, one-time event that we are all unfortunate enough to
    be sharing.

    Reply

  39. ... says:

    George W. Bush is wealthy and the beneficiary of several generations of inherited as opposed to earned wealth. (He is also a product of Yale and Harvard.) In the minds of the ignorant, this sort of “wealth” = powerful.
    George W. Bush’s record in office confirms the impotence of his intellect and his capacity to lead either the nation or the world.

    Reply

  40. Tagore says:

    Has Sarah Palin read the essential Gitanjali?
    “A few days ago I said to a distinguished Bengali doctor of medicine, `I know no German, yet if a translation of a German poet had moved me, I would go to the British Museum and find books in English that would tell me something of his life, and of the history of his thought. But though these prose translations from Rabindranath Tagore have stirred my blood as nothing has for years, I shall not know anything of his life, and of the movements of thought that have made them possible, if some Indian traveller will not tell me.’”
    W.B. Yeats
    http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=TagGita.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=all

    Reply

  41. Give Peas A Chance says:

    Websites for females against Sarah Palin are springing up – my
    fellow American females (and concerned males) spread these
    web addresses around!
    Women Against Sarah Palin. org is getting a lot of press. Here’s
    the URL:
    http://womenagainstsarahpalin.org/
    Here’s an ABC new article talking about “Women Against Sarah
    Palin”
    http://tinyurl.com/3lox89
    Here’s another site that is not as well-organized:
    http://womenagainstpalin.com/index.html

    Reply

  42. Steve Clemons says:

    Frank — yes, I stand by the statement. People underestimate GW Bush. I don’t and won’t. I don’t support his presidency and think much harm has been done to the nation — but he has been consequential.
    Not everyone at the Constitutional Convention was “good”. Aaron Burr — who was not at the Convention but could have been and was a “founding brother” of the country — reminds me a lot of Bush.
    – Steve Clemons

    Reply

  43. John Waring says:

    Sara Palin is not Cincinnatus, greatness raised from obscurity. She is mediocrity raised from obscurity.

    Reply

  44. Linda says:

    All Palin has to be able to read are index cards with answers and a teleprompter.
    If she were to start now reading the books we’d like to prepare for being President, she’d be McCain’s age when she is ready.
    I’d just be interested to know after the Bible, the last three books she read.

    Reply

  45. Frank says:

    “Many don’t like George W. Bush — but he would have been a player amongst the powerful in the early days of this country’s formation had he lived then”.
    Really Steve??Do you really really believe that stunning statement?
    The worst president this country ever had would have been a “powerful” player in this country’s formation? Unbelieveable, and how insulting to the memory of those “powerful” players.

    Reply

  46. Bob Reid says:

    I would strongly encourage you, Steve, and everyone else to view “The Century of the Self” by BBC director Adam Curtis.
    It may be viewed at Google video http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8953172273825999151
    It is a powerful look at what is at play in our electoral, economic and social interactions, based upon the manipulation of the masses by ppealing to their subconscious desires.
    Rick Davis said it when he said, “This campaign is not about issues, it is about what people take away!”

    Reply

  47. William Jensen says:

    Frankly, over the years, I have paid attention to references to what Bush was reading and have been impressed. He does read pretty good books, although whether he gained any insight from the activity is questionable. Unfortunatley, he took time off from his reading to run our country, which has caused problem.
    Palin? Five colleges in six years. Clearly, she is not well read.

    Reply

  48. Arun says:

    A different Steve on a different blog writes:
    http://www.foundersvbush.com/
    Quote:
    As to George W. Bush, I don’t purport to know anything about him beyond his public image and pronouncements. I don’t know if he truly eschews open-minded discussion, ignores undesirable evidence and reasoning or if he is a master actor who has created a convincing persona of the “artificial aristocrat” that Jefferson warned us of; I don’t know if he is ignorant and uncurious or merely master poseur—but that he is a smug demagogue and prodigious liar is beyond all doubt.
    ~ Steve Coffman, Founders v. Bush

    Reply

  49. Steve Clemons says:

    Arun — thanks for the transcript. Actually, I’m not that easy to impress. These were the televised encounters that I remember from a distance. I heard Bush speak about the Hamilton book on more than one occasion — and was very surprised by Bush reading Eastward to Tartary by Robert Kaplan. Have you read that book? Dense for those who don’t have familiarity with the region — but I know Bush read it and marked it up.
    So, I do thank you for the transcript. But don’t think I’m all that easily impressed by our incumbent president. I’m not.
    But to your point, if Sarah Palin gave evidence of knowledge of Hamilton, Washington, Burr, Madison, Jay and more and even went as far as Bush did in the short clip you found — I’d be less doubtful.
    But again, I know Bush read Hamilton and he spoke to it not only on Brian Lamb’s show but in other interviews I saw.
    That doesn’t make Bush a saint. I know that Cheney and Rumsfeld devoured books too — and look what they did.
    But I’d rather have smart fiends in government that we joust with and try to run out rather than those with power who know little of the DNA stuff of the nation, its history, and purpose.
    Thanks — best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  50. Arun says:

    http://www.q-and-a.org/Transcript/?ProgramID=1008
    The full Lamb/Bush transcript. Nothing more about Hamilton than I posted above.
    Clemons says:
    “Bush knew the Hamilton book. I knew he knew it from his discussion with Brian Lamb and his confident, specific references to nuanced parts of the book that would not have been easy for someone who had been handed just crib notes. Bush had read this 856 page book masterpiece on one of the key sculptors and enablers of the American nation.”
    - Is there some other Lamb/Bush interview?
    - Where are the “confident, specific references to nuanced ports of the book”???????
    I think Clemons and/or someone on his staff can dig up the specific interview and references to back his rather spectacular claim.

    Reply

  51. Arun says:

    Bush with Brian Lamb (transcript)
    http://hnn.us/articles/9934.html
    Bush’s deep thoughts:
    “For example, the Hamilton book I thought was a very interesting history of how hard it was to get democracy started, in some ways. And yet here we are in Iraq, trying to help them get democracy started, and yet it’s expected to be done nearly overnight. And so it helps me keep a perspective of what’s real and what’s possible, and some of the struggles we went through.
    Admittedly, we’re dealing with different technologies than, obviously, in the old days. But, nevertheless, it’s hard for democracy to take hold. And I think that history gives me a kind of — it helps me better explain and understand exactly what we’re seeing. And that’s important for a policymaker to be able to grasp the realities of the situation based upon some historical lessons.”
    —- Clemons is easily impressed.

    Reply

  52. Arun says:

    All that Steve Clemons has advanced is to greatly degrade the value of being well-read. How does it matter what Sarah Palin has read, when all that did not make anything of Bush?
    In 2004, Bush was asked to name a mistake he had made since assuming office and what he had learned from it. Bush didn’t have an answer. So presumably all his reading merely went to confirm that he was always right. Clemons wants us to believe that Bush’s inability to answer that question is a charade and that there is in reality deep reflection there; that this man would not have been out of place with the Founding Fathers. But not one thing he might have done better?
    More likely, this is Clemons doing an imitation of a used-car salesman trying to unload a lemon.

    Reply

  53. SassySuzy says:

    This is such a smart blog. I would never have thought of this approach.
    To use Bushie as your point of comparison is sheer genius.

    Reply

  54. Steve Clemons says:

    Love your note David. I’ll let you know what that piece is ready.
    However, George W. Bush reads, and reads well. As I said, I’ve witnessed or have been close to three encounters of the book kind with Bush — and know from aides that what I wrote above about him is accurate.
    But this is not about Bush. It is about Bush as a point of comparison as someone the conservative crowd in America trusts and holds as one of their own for the most part.
    Given where Bush is, what has Palin read? Could she hang with those who put this country together in any convincing way?
    I haven’t seen evidence of that yet — and we deserve to know.
    So far, I’ve found material where Sarah Palin reads C.S. Lewis and George Sheehan, the runner….that’s it.

    Reply

  55. David Pincus says:

    Wow! In the next installment, I look forward to reading how contrary to convention wisdom GWB is really a curious, reflective and open-minded fellow with a powerful ability to draw analogies from what he reads and use them both to formulate policy and to adjust policies if problems arise.
    Steve. How you love to torture us – you rascal you!

    Reply

  56. Christian Sporleder says:

    I’m not suprised Bush has read some big books, particularly
    biographies of great men fated for critical times.. I’m sure it
    suits his self-image and grandiosity to immerse himself in
    stories of American greatness.
    But to read about the roots of America and not to be able to
    reflect accurately on one’s role in steering a course so far from
    what the founders intended, to not see the venality of man as
    the great insight of these founders, to undercut their driving
    ambition to constrain this human weakness’s role in our
    government, Bush hasn’t a clue. I’ve no doubt that these books
    are just fodder for Bush to overstate his great role on history’s
    stage to himself. He fancies himself Truman, history will judge
    him a Harding.
    I read Moby Dick in the third grade, because I had some odd
    obsession with whales, whaling, the ocean, etc. I’m pretty sure
    most of the themes, context, universal truths, and mystery of
    that book didn’t get anywhere near my head until fully an adult.
    Finishing important books and pulling wisdom and self-
    knowledge from them are two different things.
    To read the correspondence of Adams and Jefferson, then to
    study the Bush administration’s intense disinterest in hearing
    any unfriendly information, is to make one want to laugh so as
    not to cry over the gap in human quality.
    To have invaded Iraq without knowing the terms Shia and Sunni
    renders any amount of Bush’s holiday reading comically
    meaningless.
    Double that for Cheney’s giving everyone Civil War histories as
    gifts, while wanting to armchair general the 82nd airborne into
    the Western desert in Gulf 1 to the frightened bemusement of
    the military command.

    Reply

  57. Franklin says:

    It’s an interesting thought experiment to imagine what Bush’s contributions at the Constitutional Convention would have been if he’d been there.
    If we’re talking about Bush 2000, I’d say not much. There was no evidence that he’d given much thought then to Constitutional issues, political theory, or ancient democracies. I wouldn’t exactly hold Texas with its popularly elected judges, multiple Constitutions, and weak executive as ideal experience either.
    Bush 2008 might have something to offer, but I’d attribute this more to his experience than due to his reading.
    His father, on the other hand, would probably have added more than a little to the discussion.
    It is an interesting point too regarding Bush’s on-the-job reading. I think the big trouble here is that he didn’t have any time to let some of these ideas germinate. He arrived at the game after he was elected, and that kind of on the job training just isn’t in the national interests. A leader needs to have some baseline to work with on foreign policy and Constitutional issues — and Bush’s baseline seems to have been well-below what should be an acceptable standard.
    As far as Palin goes, at this stage she hasn’t offered any evidence of developed views on Constitutional issues, foreign policy, or economic policy. Maybe she has them, but that evidence hasn’t shown through in the Gibson interviews — she seems to be giving answers that are more based on rote-memorization rather than considered views. That’s a problem.

    Reply

  58. steve says:

    Gee, you’d think someone who’s read all those books would know that:
    (1) you can’t lower taxes during wartime
    (2) You can’t democratize Middle East countries by bombing the bejeezus out of them.

    Reply

  59. rich says:

    It’s great that George Bush can show the nation he reads books some years after his inauguration.
    Perhaps Sarah Palin, too, can read up on America after being elected.
    They could have that in common.
    I suppose I’m being unfair. It takes a long time to “read biographies on virtually all of the American presidents”—it’s possible Bush read some of them while Governor of Texas, the second largest state in the Union.
    We’re best off judging George Bush’s Constitutional expertise by what he practices—not his reading list. By whether he adheres to the letter and the spirit of the (Supreme) law of the land. Waxing philosophical about theories of governance isn’t enough, not when the actual end-product is held in such contempt. It’s not enough because we’ve got lawyers (John Yoo) using all manner of sophistry to essentially murder our way of life: any point may be argued and no defining clause, article or amendment shall stand in the way or be left whole in the process.
    I’ve never thought George Bush was stupid. Many have underestimated him, and paid the price. Of course, that leaves the body politic impaled on the other horn of this dilemma. If Bush isn’t stupid, is he good or competent? Has he acted in the best interests of the country?
    Did Sharansky need to make “The Case For Democracy?” Did Bush really get the idea, or just exploit it? It matters whether George Bush is a “constructive or destructive force.” He cannot be credibly deemed the equal of our Founding Fathers without holding those values in common and by upholding them.
    Saying George Bush is a statesman or on par with nation-builders doesn’t make it so.
    The biggest similarity Sarah Palin has with George Bush, John McCain, and Ronald Reagan is the facility which which she lies. She merely adheres to stock Republican narrative. Yet we harldy nailed her John McCain or Bush for those same policies. Bush can help instigate a war in Georgia; McCain can bluster and threaten, but it’s Palin takes flak for the same ridiculous positions, the same lies.

    Reply

  60. Mr.Murder says:

    As for Sarah Palin, were she really wanting to latch onto the independent vote as she tries best to portray self,
    she should read Amelia Earhart.
    Certain to get Don Imus’ vote.
    Someone who traveled new ground. The flying comparison.
    Personally I think Hillary fits the model better, a bit less game, but someone who tried to charter really ambitious journeys and was a true feminist. Far better traveled as well.
    One was a soul sister, the other is presently imitative only to a certain degree. Two are true Icons, a third may still journey there and has to an historic extent.

    Reply

  61. Mr.Murder says:

    Excellent post , steve.
    Your diagnosis of GWB’s reading habits indicates his intelligence level and ability to feign ignorance fit within the profile of a serial personality.

    Reply

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