Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reading Off Into The Sunset

In yesterday's WSJ, Karl Rove addressed the trope of the incurious, illiterate President Bush:

It all started on New Year's Eve in 2005. President Bush asked what my New Year's resolutions were. I told him that as a regular reader who'd gotten out of the habit, my goal was to read a book a week in 2006. Three days later, we were in the Oval Office when he fixed me in his sights and said, "I'm on my second. Where are you?" Mr. Bush had turned my resolution into a contest.

By coincidence, we were both reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals." The president jumped to a slim early lead and remained ahead until March, when I moved decisively in front. The competition soon spun out of control. We kept track not just of books read, but also the number of pages and later the combined size of each book's pages -- its "Total Lateral Area."

"Team of Rivals," eh? You suppose that President Bush read this now much talked about work before Barack Obama? That would really mess up a few narratives out there.

There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one. Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one is not only wrong, but also the opposite of the truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small-minded critic. Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them, and is intellectually engaged by them.

For two terms in the White House, Mr. Bush has been in the arena, keeping America safe and facing down enormous challenges, all the while acting with dignity. And when on Jan. 20 he flies from Washington to Texas one last time, he will do so as he arrived -- with friends and a book nearby.

As I've said before reading alone or even reading the "right" books does not necessarily make one a good leader or president. But the idea that President Bush didn't read and that Barack Obama will bring reading back to the White House is a ridiculous falsehood that--like so many others regarding the Bush administration--seems to continue to live on despite all evidence to the contrary.