George W. Bush: Book-reader in chief
Just when you get your mind all made up about President George W. Bush, along comes Karl Rove trying to unsettle things.
The president is far from being the uncultured book-burner often portrayed by his critics, his former deputy chief of staff wrote in The Wall Street Journal Friday.
In fact, Bush is a voracious reader and lover of books, Rove insisted.
The president has gone through 40 tomes so far this year. That follows 51 in 2007 and 95 in 2006. Plus the Bible from cover to cover each year.
History, fiction, biography. You name it, he’s read it.
“Team of Rivals,” the book about Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet that is shaping President-elect Barack Obama’s thinking about his own administration?
Bush has been there, done that. Read it back in ’06. Along with a Mao biography, Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Mayflower,” eight Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald and “The Stranger” by Albert Camus.
He went through “Khrushchev’s Cold War,” “Rogue Regime” and “The Shia Revival” in ’07. That plus his daughter Jenna’s book “Ana’s Story.” And many others.
This year there’s been U.S. Grant’s “Personal Memoirs,” Hugh Thomas’ “Spanish Civil War” and James McPherson’s “Tried by war: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief.”
“There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one,” Rove wrote.
“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,” he said.
If the reading part wasn’t shock enough for Bush naysayers, Rove has more.
“Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them and is intellectually engaged by them,” he wrote.
How, you may ask, would Rove know so much about Bush’s reading habits?
It seems they have been engaged in friendly competition to see who could read the greatest number of books each year.
And who won?
Not the president. Rove mopped the floor with him every year. He read 110 in 2006, 76 in 2007 and has 64 to his credit so far in 2008.
Bush’s excuse? Too busy with his day job.
Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, prepare to board Air Force One en route to Texas Dec. 26); Reuters/Fred Prouser (Rove takes part in a panel discussion on Fox TV July 14)