Monday, March 21, 2005

POTUS Reading Lists

Richard Norton Smith, conservative biographer and historian, writes about the reading interests of presidents past and present in the upcoming Weekly Standard. Now his spin is that what presidents read before occupying the White House doesn't translate into a "better" chief executive, his example being James Madison's mismanaged war record. But, when placed against the old portraits on the walls, GBII seems woefully sophomoric:

Like John Quincy Adams, Bush reads the Bible every morning on rising (alternating scripture with the inspirational writings of Oswald Chambers, the Scottish-born chaplain who died in 1917 at the age of 42). Bush, like Adams, emulates his mother more than his presidential father. There the similarities end. The second Adams wrote English with one hand while translating Greek with the other, and complained that his official duties deprived him of the companionship of old friends Cicero and Tacitus. As a former professor of oratory at Harvard, Adams was openly contemptuous of the unlettered Andrew Jackson. He was appalled to learn in 1833 that his beloved alma mater intended to bestow an honorary degree on the Tennessee frontiersman who personified the triumph of western democracy, "a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and could hardly spell his own name."

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