Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Richard Cohen Shocked to Discover Bush Is An Avid Reader

Discovering George W. Bush has read, by Karl Rove's account, 186 books over the past three years just doesn't fit the narrow template that Bush is a blithering idiot. It humbles all those intellectual titans on the left, such as Richard Cohen, that the president is more well-read than most anyone out there. Good for him.

What Cohen finds most irksome, however, other than having his notion of Bush as a dummy shattered, is the fact he isn't reading books critical of himself. As if he'd waste his time on cliched drivel about how Iraq was such a disaster.

Maybe Bush doesn't agree with the left's assessment, so why would he bother?
Still, the fact remains that Bush is a prodigious, industrial reader, and this does not conform at all to his critics' idea of who he is. They would prefer seeing him as a dolt, since that, as opposed to policy or ideological differences, is a briefer, more bloggish explanation of what went wrong. Still, in fairness to these critics (see Rove above), Bush himself has encouraged this approach. Aw shucks is an infuriating defense of a policy.

It is awfully late in the day for Rove -- and, presumably, Bush -- to assert the president's intellectual bona fides. Now feeling the hot breath of history, they are dropping the good ol' boy persona and picking up the ol' bifocals one. But the books themselves reveal -- actually, confirm -- something about Bush that maybe Rove did not intend. They are not the reading of a widely read man, but instead the books of a man who seeks -- and sees -- vindication in every page. Bush has always been the captive of fixed ideas. His books just support that.

The list Rove provides is long, but it is narrow. It lacks whole shelves of books on how and why the Iraq war was a mistake, one that metastasized into a debacle. Absent is Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," Tom Ricks's "Fiasco," George Packer's "The Assassins' Gate" or, on a related topic, Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side" about "extraordinary rendition" and other riffs on the Constitution. Absent too is Barton Gellman's "Angler," about Dick Cheney, the waterboarder in chief.
I doubt Cheney will be reading that, either.

Instapundit links. Thanks!

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