January 14, 2009

Obama the Intellectual

After informing us that Brack Obama recently dined with ?conservative opinion leaders? William Kristol and David Brooks, NPR ran a story this morning about the prolific reading of Obama, attempting to paint him as one of the great minds of the American presidency.  Playwright Eric Begosian was quoted as saying:  ?Our new president is, in the broadest sense of the word, a reader.”

What are some of Obama?s favorite books?  Over the past decade he has mentioned:

Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon

Doris Goodwin: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Various books by Thomas L. Friedman

Taylor Branch: Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

(And his publicists often throw in a few European pieces, for good measure, generic gestures like the Collected Works of Shakespeare.)

If this is what now qualifies as bookish, then what were our ancestors?  Compare Obama to President Calvin Coolidge (back when the U.S. still maintained the appearance of a republic) who in no way considered himself an ?intellectual.?  Yet, Coolidge, while in the White House, read works not only in English, but in Latin, Greek, French and Italian.

When Obama passes his time turning the pages of Morrison or Malcolm X, Coolidge was contemplating Cicero, Vergil, Thucydides, Homer, and Dante.  Coolidge might even have read The Satyricon, which exemplifies the waning of republican learnedness at the hands of the new barbarian elite of the empire.

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