The Jury Talks Back

3/17/2017

Trump: I Love to Read

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:30 am

Business Insider quotes Trump holding forth about his love of reading. I can’t find video, but here’s the quote:

Well, you know, I love to read. Actually, I’m looking at a book, I’m reading a book, I’m trying to get started. Every time I do about a half a page, I get a phone call that there’s some emergency, this or that. But we’re going to see the home of Andrew Jackson today in Tennessee and I’m reading a book on Andrew Jackson. I love to read. I don’t get to read very much, Tucker, because I’m working very hard on lots of different things, including getting costs down. The costs of our country are out of control. But we have a lot of great things happening, we have a lot of tremendous things happening.

Every time he does about half a page, there’s some emergency? Wow! That’s something like an emergency an hour!

Don’t get me wrong: he’s doing pretty well as President, policy-wise. I can put up with this type of nonsense if that’s what it takes to get a budget that cuts discretionary spending, an executive order on immigration that is more narrowly tailored and protects the country (and should not be blocked), an excellent Supreme Court nominee, and an attack on regulations.

Just don’t ask me to believe he reads books. The man’s never read a book in his life. I’d put money on it.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

26 Comments »

  1. The reality is that, unfortunately, a very small percentage of Americans read for pleasure. Asking what books a politician reads is an extraordinary elitist question, in reality. Its not something that resonates with the public, just the beltway snobs.

    And I say that as someone who reads scores of books – fiction and non-fiction – each year for pleasure. (And I have several fiction authors as clients ….)

    Comment by SPQR — 3/17/2017 @ 12:09 pm

  2. I posted this at Pontifications, but I’ll repost it here for DRJ and the other Texans.

    The last book I read was two weeks ago. “Pistoleer”, a fictional biography of John Wesley Hardin. I did learn something. It took 20 governors for Texas to get one who was born in Texas. James Stephen Hogg. The 19 before him were “carpetbaggers”, “immigrants” or “settlers”, depending on your mood. That would include Austin and Houston. The other thing he’s notable for, and I’m not kidding, is that he named his daughter Ima.

    I’d put the book on a par with Larry McMurtry’s stuff (the movies were much better), and way below anything by Elmer Kelton.

    Comment by nk — 3/17/2017 @ 4:36 pm

  3. Excellent recommendation, nk. I’ll get it and read it.

    Texas children in my generation learned about Ima Hogg in school. As kids often do, we embellished the story and decided she had a sister Yura.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/17/2017 @ 4:53 pm

  4. DRJ, see if your public library has Hoopla, so you can borrow it online. Besides being free, I like that I can enlarge the font. 😉

    Comment by nk — 3/17/2017 @ 5:27 pm

  5. Or at Open Library, also free and no public library membership required, but with limited availability and formats.

    Comment by nk — 3/17/2017 @ 5:40 pm

  6. Good ideas, nk. Thanks.

    Also, Trump’s books seem to be Bannon’s, not Trump’s.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/17/2017 @ 6:16 pm

  7. Evidence that no one at the White House reads.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/18/2017 @ 7:11 am

  8. The reality is that, unfortunately, a very small percentage of Americans read for pleasure. Asking what books a politician reads is an extraordinary elitist question, in reality.

    I just spent a few minutes on Twitter bemoaning (in humorous fashion, or at least I think so) the idea that we seem headed towards a situation where reading itself is considered elitist. Then I come here and find someone actually saying that already. I guess we’re not headed there. We’re already there.

    The thing is, you’re a reader, SPQR (I knew that without your having to say it), and that means you understand the value of reading. And your observation that most Americans don’t read seems on target.

    But the word “elitism” is usually used derisively. So I’m puzzled as to why a reader would use that term to describe a question about reading books. You may not mean to be taking sides against asking the question, but the use of the term “elitist” makes it look like you are. I’m interesting in exploring that further. Why use that particular word? Do you mean it derisively?

    Comment by Patterico — 3/18/2017 @ 11:10 am

  9. Not necessarily derisively. Simply factually. I believe that almost no one in the American electorate thinks its important to know that a Presidential candidate reads for pleasure. I think that those who think its significant that Trump does not could indeed be described as elitist.

    As mentioned, I’m a reader. In fact, I probably read more books every week than 90% of actual readers. I read a great deal of non-fiction – largely history and contemporary affairs analysis. I’m reading a book on the Revolutionary War from the British point of view right now, “The Men Who Lost America”. At the same time, I’ve got a couple of fiction works in progress right now. Most but not all of my friends read for pleasure.

    Frankly, I don’t care whether or not Trump reads for pleasure. It really says nothing about his competence to do the job.

    I think getting warmed up by the question of whether or not Trump reads is playing into the media narrative that Trump is an ignorant and stupid man. I think Trump has large character flaws, almost no political experience, and formless political ideology rooted in little but expedience. But its an error to think he is stupid and ignorant. And an error to think that whether or not he reads is someone proof of his ignorance and stupidity. I think it is easy in this instance to fall into the kind of self-congratulatory elitism we usually ridicule here.

    Comment by SPQR — 3/18/2017 @ 8:43 pm

  10. I will say that the early Presidents were extraordinarily well-read men, when being well read cost both money and effort. But in my opinion, the last President who was probably actually reading works that affected his policy views was Theodore Roosevelt. TR was a huge Alfred Thayer Mahan fan (a naval officer whose writings on theory of navy strategy were probably the most influential American military strategy works)

    Comment by SPQR — 3/18/2017 @ 9:08 pm

  11. SPQR,

    Interesting and persuasive comments, but I think it’s fair to also point out that Trump seems to have a very short attention span. His Twitter obsession, knee-jerk decision-making, and his admission thT he rarely has the time (patience, attention span?) To do more than scan books reinforces this view. My guess is the last book he read completely is All Quiet on the Western Front, which he says is one of his favorite books. He probably read it in prep school. It typically is read in middle school or as a freshman in high school. Maybe that is when he got serious about doing better in school.

    I do think Trump reads selected parts of some books. His interests seem to lie in more gossipy selections, the kind of books that would give someone ammunition to needle or attack other people. I doubt he reads everything in the books. Just the “good parts,” as we used to say as kids.

    The reason I think this is instructive is what it tells us about his intellectual curiosity. Presidents need to get information from other sources, even if they are very well-read, but the less-informed Presidents definitely need help from someone. I think that’s part of why we speculate about who has access to a President and how much they influence him. It was done with Bush-Cheney and Obama-Jarrett, but it is also true with almost every President. How much did Woodrow Wilson’s wife run the government after his stroke? How much control did Tammany Hall have over Andrew Jackson? We even speculate about who had George Washington’s ear.

    This is also true with Trump and we have to start with Bannon, Miller, and Kushner. Someone is consistently steering Trump for the Heritage Foundation for ideology, and it clearly isn’t happening because Trump is a voracious reader or political history or theory. As you so brilliantly put it, his political ideology is formless.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/19/2017 @ 7:54 am

  12. I think Lincoln was also influenced by reading. He may not have had the means to buy many books but he learned well from the ones he had. We could even say that books made him the great man he became.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/19/2017 @ 8:15 am

  13. DRJ, I’m not defending Trump at all, merely warning not to fall for the idea that reading makes a “good” President. Frankly in my lifetime our most successful Presidents did not have the reputation of being “intellectually curious”. And Obama gave us a faux intellectualism.

    Comment by SPQR — 3/19/2017 @ 9:55 am

  14. I don’t think you are defending Trump … but perhaps you are defending the idea that a person needn’t need be a reader of books to be intelligent?

    Sometimes I stop reading books and entertain/inform myself solely from internet articles and TV news/shows. It’s satisfying but it’s also superficial. There is something about investing my time and my mind in a book — online or the old-fashion kind — that makes me think on a deeper level. Maybe that’s just me but I don’t think so. It’s not necessary to read books constantly but I think those who rarely read books will suffer intellectually.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/19/2017 @ 10:34 am

  15. Interestingly, I also think blogging made me a better thinker and reader. I read things with more intensity, was more skeptical, and was more open-minded when I blogged. My ultimate opinions didn’t necessarily change but I knew what I said would be read and challenged, so I was more diligent in backing up what I said. Fewer typos, too!

    Comment by DRJ — 3/19/2017 @ 10:40 am

  16. DRJ, I’m not defending Trump at all, merely warning not to fall for the idea that reading makes a “good” President.

    That’s not what I mean to be arguing, at all. Wilson was an “intellectual” (Ivy League University president) and a horrible president. And in the post, I say Trump is doing OK policy-wise. All I really argued in the post was that I should not be required to believe Trump is a reader, because he’s clearly not.

    As for the importance of reading, I think DRJ has expressed it well: intellectual curiosity and a set of core beliefs are something I would obviously prefer to see, all other things being equal. I don’t consider this an elitist position but I guess that opinion is being marginalized these days.

    Comment by Patterico — 3/19/2017 @ 10:59 am

  17. Frankly in my lifetime our most successful Presidents did not have the reputation of being “intellectually curious”.

    W
    SPQR, who are you thinking about with this statement? Some Presidents (typically Republicans) have had reputations as being dunces. Being intellectually curious is not the same as having a reputation for the same.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/19/2017 @ 11:34 am

  18. It was once elitist to believe books are important — when books were rare and expensive, and only the wealthy could get them. To help counter that is one reason Carnegie funded libraries. It isn’t that way now. The only reason not to read books is by choice.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/19/2017 @ 12:03 pm

  19. Frankly in my lifetime our most successful Presidents did not have the reputation of being “intellectually curious”.

    W
    SPQR, who are you thinking about with this statement? Some Presidents (typically Republicans) have had reputations as being dunces. Being intellectually curious is not the same as having a reputation for the same.

    True. Anyone who has read W’s memoir knows he’s not a dunce. Ditto Reagan. By contrast, I genuinely believe Trump is a dunce.

    I understand SPQR believes it’s “an error to think he is stupid and ignorant.” I have great respect for SPQR and I also think he is more well read than I am. But my personal opinion is that Trump is indeed both stupid and ignorant. I think he is skilled at certain base forms of social interaction and appealing to masses — skills that make one good at getting elected, and at making money. But my honest belief is that he is a simpleton. Were his IQ measured, I think it would register in double digits. YMMV but that is what I honestly think.

    I think it’s beyond dispute that he has an incredibly short attention span, prefers TV to the written word, and is impatient with even the most basic level of detail. These traits are consistent with my belief that he is among the dimmest of dim bulbs.

    This is not a fault without consequence. Lack of intellectual curiosity leads one to make basic economic errors. Combined with the too-great powers of the presidency, this ignorance can lead to great suffering and even death.

    He can still succeed policy-wise. But ignorance and lack of curiosity are not good traits.

    Comment by Patterico — 3/19/2017 @ 12:34 pm

  20. It was once elitist to believe books are important — when books were rare and expensive, and only the wealthy could get them. To help counter that is one reason Carnegie funded libraries. It isn’t that way now. The only reason not to read books is by choice.

    Some tell us that Trump is just too busy. But he’s not too busy to play golf or watch hour after hour of TV or concern himself with the ratings of the Apprentice etc. etc. etc.

    It’s really quite clear that he is just not a reader and that his claim to love reading is another of his habitual bald-faced lies.

    /elitism

    Comment by Patterico — 3/19/2017 @ 12:36 pm

  21. Patterico, I don’t think I am more well read than you are. Our non-fiction reading interests overlap some, but there is a lot of areas that you are better read in, than I. And vice versa.

    I believe you are still thinking that my use of “elitist” in this thread is derogatory. Its not. I use the term when discussing my own opinions and involvement in the SJW vs Sad Puppy Hugo Award controversies in the SF world. Some of my friends are SF convention people and I’ve friends on both sides of the argument. Probably the quintessential elitist spat.

    Personally, I can’t even understand people who don’t read.

    While I share much of your opinion of Trump’s character flaws, including his patent dishonesty, I am going to have to stick to my belief that reducing that to “stupid and ignorant” is a mistake.

    Comment by SPQR — 3/19/2017 @ 6:01 pm

  22. Trump has authored books and was elected President so it’s almost ludicrous to imagine that someone like that might rarely read books, but that’s where we are as a nation. In 2005, only 31% of college graduates could read and understand complex books, and I doubt that has changed much. Reading and understanding complex material is no longer a skill that people value, and Trump has all the characteristics of a person who doesn’t value that skill.

    I don’t think Trump is stupid and ignorant. If he is, then we’d have to say that half (or more) of Americans are, too, and they aren’t. But I don’t think he grasps complex subjects. His skill is making everything look simple, even things that aren’t.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/20/2017 @ 6:09 am

  23. DRJ, I think Trump’s books were ghostwritten.

    Comment by SPQR — 3/20/2017 @ 9:23 am

  24. I understand that, SPQR. Many (most?) politician’s books have had ghostwriters since JFK. But Trump holds himself out to be an author and wants credit for it so we get to hold him to the standard of a learned, book-writing President. He doesn’t measure up.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/20/2017 @ 9:52 am

  25. Sorry, I missed the sarcasm. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Its my job to be sarcastic, not yours. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    Comment by SPQR — 3/20/2017 @ 9:55 am

  26. In fairness, Obama doesn’t seem like much of an author either, so maybe this is the new normal for Presidents. It’s similar to modern high schools and colleges where students don’t read, prepare for class or study.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/20/2017 @ 10:14 am

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