In Bush Is a Book Lover at the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove chronicles his three-year-long Great American Reading Race with President Bush. He maintains that in the fiercest year of the competition, 2006, he defeated Bush, 110 books to 95.
“The president,” Rove writes, “lamely insisted he’d lost because he’d been busy as Leader of the Free World.”
To even joke about this demonstrates a degree of tone-deafness that beggars the imagination. What, any thinking American wonders, is the president doing reading — an activity which, of necessity, isolates — to the tune of almost two books a week? Since Bush is notorious for turning in early and there’s only so much time he can spend on the john, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that he was slacking off on America’s dime.
Ever since the competition was first promoted as proof of the president’s gravitas, other bloggers, have expressed similar reservations. Back in 2006, Steve Benen asked Is Our President Learning? at the American Prospect:
The boasts simply strain credulity. … If we expand the definition of “read” to include Cliff’s Notes, abridged books on tape, and skimming over a book’s jacket, then maybe the claims are plausible. Otherwise, they’re demonstrably ridiculous.
Reacting to Rove’s column yesterday, John Aloysius Farrell wrote at U.S. News & World Report, in Bush, Rove, and Books: Who Knew W. Had So Much Time to Read?:
. . . 95 books a year? Wow. That is a lot of time spent curled by the fireplace for the Leader of the Free World.Sure, there are some mysteries and thrillers on the presidential reading list, but there are also mammoth histories — we’re talking 600-800 pages or more for some of these volumes. …
As an historian, it is part of my daily duties to read a lot about the era I plan to chronicle. And I also read for enjoyment, and as a working journalist. But. … Where does he get the time? [Emphasis added.]
At Crooks and Liars, in Karl Rove: Bush’s Books, John Amato wrote:
I love to read too, but I think my job requirements are a little less stressful than being the president. Do you think his persistent book reading was a way to remain in a state of deep denial about the state of our nation?
At My DD, in Should the President Really Be Reading Two Books a Week?, Jonathan Singer wrote:
. . . just thinking about these numbers — 1.83 books per week — you get the sense that the President could more efficiently use his time. Just going by the amount of reading I do on a day-to-day basis between reading for blogging and reading for law school, it’s difficult for me to get through more than a dozen books a year. … I would assume that the job of the President of the United States requires as much or more reading than does the job of being a political blogging law student. . . so it’s difficult for me to visualize where the time to read a couple books. . . every single week would materialize for a President.
Reading this much — worse, no doubt skimming to keep pace with Rove –- lends credence to my theory that, aside from hoping to accrue glory for bringing freedom to the Middle East, Bush never really had much interest in being president. Less even, as time wore on and the morass he’d mired the country in proved increasingly un-navigable.
What this country needs –- and has somehow received despite its reputation for anti-intellectualism –- is a president-elect who has read. Not only that — will wonders never cease — he’s written.
More at Memeorandum.