Does anyone remember the "Bush is a smart guy" offensive of a few years ago?
For years Bush was well-known as shallow, uncurious, and anti-intellectual. It was an image that worked well with his populist base constituency. He was the guy you'd invite over for a barbeque, not the guy you'd hire to help your kids pass their SATs. At some point soon after 9/11, his staff had a crisis of faith and wondered if the free world really wanted an amiable idiot to lead them in a war of civilizations. They made sure he was always seen carrying a book when ever he got on or off Air Force One (it was always the same book, Jay Winik's history of the end of the Civil War, April 1865). It might have worked if they had stopped there, but while preparing his State of the Union address, Bush's handlers announced that he was seeking inspiration in an absurdly long list of philosophers, poets, and founding fathers. No one was ready to buy that one and they let the idea drop, going back to their "common man" narrative.
I was reminded of that today.
Dec 27, 2005 -- CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush is spending part of his Christmas holiday reading about the post-presidential years of Theodore Roosevelt and the lives of U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Bush was reading "When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House," by Patricia O'Toole, and "Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground," by Robert Kaplan while on holiday at his Texas ranch, said White House spokesman Trent Duffy.[...]
Asked whether there was any significance that Bush, who has three years left in office, was reading a book about the post-White House years of a former president, Duffy replied that Bush is a "history buff" and "avid reader."
Avid reader. Snort. Tell us another one, Trent. As always, the press failed to ask the logical follow-up question. In this case it would have been, "whose job is it to convert a 512 page book by a real historian into a twenty minute Powerpoint presentation that won't tax the attention span of the Commander-in-Chief?"