Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bush the Bibliophile

President George W. Bush has a voracious appetite for reading. On his most recent five week vacation, his pleasure reading is said to have included three dense five-hundred page tomes. These were: Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky, The Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky and The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John Barry. Not one Harry Potter novel in this lot. This is a particularly impressive reading list considering that the President was on a “working vacation.” The President even mentioned at his press conference on Tuesday that “Mr. Barry’s book” about the 1919 flu epidemic helped inform his thinking about the possible desirability of declaring a nation-wide state of martial law in the event of an avian flu epidemic.

Other evidence suggests that the President indeed loves books. In May, the President was seen walking around his Crawford ranch (during a different five week vacation) carrying Tom Wolfe’s six hundred eighty-eight page novel I am Charlotte Simmons. At first, there was a mystery concerning the fact that the President had reported finishing the book several months earlier. The mystery was solved when the President’s handlers explained that one of the President’s biking partners had recently returned the book after borrowing it. That a multi-millionaire such as the President would request a $15.95 book back demonstrates that he is indeed a bibliophile. I for one am glad that the person representing me in negotiations with North Korea has just reportedly finished reading Kang Chol-Hwan’s The Aquariums of Pyong Yang.

Given the President’s well-established intellectualism, two things are surprising. The first is the rather unjustifiably low regard for the President in the rest of the World. In the “Global Election” survey recently conducted by the BBC, President Bush finished in forty-third place based on the responses of 15,000 participants voting for a hypothetical unified world leader. This was a disappointing forty-one spots behind former President Bill Clinton who placed second and only twenty-seven spots ahead of Osama Bin Laden who placed seventieth.

The second paradox is that although the president likes to read long, dense treatises in his spare time, when he’s on the job he reportedly likes information to be delivered to him in short, monosyllabic memos which are monolithically clean of divergent opinions. An example of the type of materials used in these “Presidential Daily Briefings” is the famous PDB for August 6, 2001 reprinted below:


While it does seem rather strange that a man who apparently reads volume J of the encyclopedia when he takes a dump would choose to be briefed in this manner for the most important job in the world, it just goes to show that even the greatest human beings remain a mass of contradictions

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you feel Pres.Bush should have just bought another book instead of getting the book back then Iam very pleased that you aren't running our country. You might have said oh well we will just go and buy 2 more towers after sept. 11. The global election you speak of was only 15,000 votes. Poll 15,000 random people in my conservative hometown and then 15,000 random people in NY and compare. Bill Gates making the top ten despite several anti-trust cases says something about the people who voted.

12/27/2005 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger The Fifth Dentist said...

My point was that he hasn't really read any of these books. The reason he kept carrying around "I am Charlotte Simmons" is that it was prop like the plastic computers you find in furniture stores. It really ruins the satirical aspect of this thing when you force me to explain it to you this explicitly.

12/27/2005 05:46:00 PM  

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