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Mike Schilling

You've been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald's books
You're very well read
It's well known

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?


Bush is a dress-up doll who will assume any mantle his handlers deem appropriate: cowboy, rancher, fighter pilot, President.

To call him a voracious reader is to simply add one more character to his action figure's line-up.

He doesn't read for enlightenment. He reads because he wants to seem like the kid who's studying hard to pass his final exam, meanwhile the book lies open in his lap while the Rams lose to the Redskins on the TV.

My suspicion is you could make the same analysis of any of the players on your list and come up with reasons they read, and the ones who were really good Presidents read because they wanted to, whereas the crappy ones read for other reasons, because they had to: self-esteem, keeping up with the Joneses, even escape (that's my take on Nixon).

Ken Muldrew

Actor212, I think Nixon read widely because he wanted to improve himself, and by that I mean to imply that he enjoyed reading because self-improvement was important to him. I just don't think that he had a good way to measure success (and really, that's a tough thing to get from reading...I think it's one of those things that comes from an apprenticeship (the "party upstairs", having been raised by Pop Mannion, is maybe a little better at this than he gives himself credit for)).

But I'm curious about Carter. He brought a strong ethic of responsibility to the presidency, and a sense that the state was not above morality insofar as its actions affected individuals, both within and outside of the state. As far as I can tell, Americans despised him for trying to make them feel responsible for the actions of the American state. But now many Americans are openly hoping for Obama to do the very thing that Carter was derided for. What makes them think that Americans will like it any better when Obama does it? Is it just that Obama might have the political savvy to pull it off? Or have the depradations of the past 8 years prepared people to finally accept Carter's program?


"As far as I can tell, Americans despised him for trying to make them feel responsible for the actions of the American state."

Given what I now understand about the media's treatment of the Clintons, I'm thinking the Villagers despised Carter and the broader population was just angry about a bad economy. Carter sent his daughter to public school which made all those Villagers who sent their kids to Sidwell Friends feel like elitists (or racists--because it's obvious most kids in DC schools aren't white). Did Carter ever hold a big barbecue for the reporters and do skits making fun of himself as David Gergen advised Bill Clinton? Perhaps the vanity of the Villagers made them think Carter's sense of morality was too strong, and that made them mock his positions that were fundamentally right, like conserving energy, and giving the Panama Canal to Panama and preserving the ANWAR.



I think the difference between Obama and Carter (and Clinton) is that when Carter came to DC, he was viewed as an outsider, whereas Obama, while still wet behind the ears, is viewed thru the lens of his term in the Senate.

I suspect that will help him enlist the aide of people in Congress, where both Clinton and Carter suffered for the hubris of being outsiders and bringing in outsiders.

Ken Muldrew

If the DC insiders wield that much power in shaping public opinion, then I guess Obama is also coming onto the stage at a much better time in history. The demise of information conglomerates can't come soon enough.


Ken, The RNC feeds talking points to the blogosphere and MSM. I have no doubt the DNC does the same thing.

The difference is, we're a more cantankerous bunch!

Bluegrass Poet

I ran across the quote below just this morning, reading a book called A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens (by Eleanor Cook). It may be relevant to this discussion:

Paradoxically, Stevens was aware of the danger of too much reading. The desire to read is insatiable, he said to his young Cuban friend, the writer Jose Rodriguez Feo. "Nevertheless, you must also think."

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