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Presidency

What the Candidates are Reading

The Republicans' reading lists (as compiled by Tevi Troy) confirm one's prejudices about them--though in the case of Michele Bachmann, one is pleasantly surprised:  She attributes her conversion from the Democrats to having read Gore Vidal's Burr--a "snotty little novel" that "mocked our Founding Fathers."  

Obama's summer reading list is literary, as one might expect of the author of Dreams From My Father.  Among his reading is The Warmth of Other Suns, an account of the Great Migration of blacks from the South to, among other places, Chicago.  Its author includes a mention of having met Barack Obama and then voting for him.

Having toiled in the Washington bureaucracy, I most emphatically endorse non-policy wonk reading for our politicians (provided they have some clue about public policy).  And I like the idea of the political class reading sophisticated fiction to give them moral and intellectual depth, plus some imagination--though one would like to see less contemporary work and more classics on those lists.

BTW, I do not begrudge Obama his vacation.  He should tend to his family's well-being and his own re-energizing.  But what of the manner and mode of his form of vacationing?  My own view is that he treats his presidency with the same ironic mockery that he displayed in his autobiography.  From the first page of chapter 7, p.  133:

 In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer.

There wasn't much detail to the idea;  I didn't know anyone making a livng that way.  when classmates in college asked me just what it was that a community organizer did, I couldn't answer them directly.  Instead, I'd pronounce on the need for change....

That's what I'll do, I'll organize black folks.  At the grass roots.  For change.

What Obama's friends and most of his critics don't see is that this sardonic cynicism has carried over into the White House.  When I read his book the summer before his election, I thought that the insouciant attitudes it betrayed alone disqualified him from being President.  Now we can add his deeds to the word.  Politically, this means he doesn't care.  He's having the time of his life, and he gets to golf and party too. 

No leftist who read Obama's autobiography can possibly feel snookered, and no conservative who read it could be more outraged. 

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