Sunday, August 30, 2009

Behold: a TRUE reader

Amide everything going on right now, especially in Michigan, one would think that Deputy Editorial writer Brian Dickerson would have more important pieces to write than the one that appeared in today's Detroit Free Press.

Give President Barack Obama's staff credit for leaving the boss some wiggle room: No one promised Obama would actually finish the five books the White House says were on the president's vacation reading list

Of course Obama couldn't have read all the books he took on vacation, but that's ok, because Bush was an idiot.

I like to think Obama has no interest in emulating his immediate predecessor, who (if his less than scrupulously honest chief adviser, Karl Rove, is to be believed) considered reading a competitive sport.
The competition, he asserted, had started early in Bush's second term and quickly "spun out of control. We kept track not just of books read," Rove wrote, but also the number of pages and later the combined size of each book's pages -- it's 'Total Lateral Area.' "

How horrible to reduce reading to some sort of contest. Certainly anyone who advocated such a thing would be little more than a rube. Unfit to either teach or lead out country. But, moving on ...

No, Obama's reading (whether he read his books last week or not - I'm gussing "not") is totally different.

You don't have to know the Total Lateral Area of Obama's pages to intuit that he is a more serious reader than Bush ever was.

The difference is most clearly manifest in the incumbent president's own writing. It's not that his books and speeches are sprinkled conspicuously with literary allusions; the self-conscious Obama is too wary to parade his inner nerd so conspicuously.

But even Obama's casual utterances betray a sensitivity to language that only those who have spent a good deal of their lives reading (and rereading) great writers acquire.

Get off your knees, Dickerson. It's embarrassing.

But, the gist of this piece is that certainly Obama didn't read all those books. He would have had to read over 300 pages a day to get through them all. No, Obama released his reading list in order to inform us lesser mortals as to what we should be reading.

The best thing about releasing your reading list, if you happen to be the best-known bookworm on the planet after Oprah, is the opportunity it affords to promote authors you wish other people, and especially voters, would read.

Tom Friedman's "Hot, Flat and Crowded," which is subtitled "Why We Need a Green Revolution -- and How It Can Renew America," is, in many ways, an extended argument for a policy posture Obama embraced long ago. There isn't much here the president doesn't know, but he knows his job will be easier if another 50,000 people read Friedman's book.

I though he read that book last summer? You know, when he used it in his stump speech? Details like these don't bother Dickerson, despite the fact that he quoted the book right here in Michigan.

Regardless, thank GOD we no longer have a president who read books in some sort of redneck competition, and now instead have one who pretends to read.