BOOKS OF SAND. Chalk me up as one of those skeptics who don't buy, not even for a second, the spin that George W. Bush has read more than sixty books this year (via Steve Benen). C-SPAN claims to have a partial catalog of his reading list, but none of it makes any sense. While I'm pleased Bush is trying to accrue some intellectual credibility, the boast reminds me of nothing so much as Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin recounting how "her" breasts felt like big bags full of sand! Right guys!?
In the flick, Carell's boast exposed his inexperience -- only a virgin would think that's how a breast felt. Bush's "sixty books" strikes me as similarly revealing. This is the claim of someone who wants to project dominance in a field he doesn't understand, and so wildly overreaches. Reading books, particularly nonfiction books, takes a really long time. It's hard, and it's boring, and I say this all as an effete liberal intellectual who likes reading long, boring books but can't, like everyone else I know, seem to finish them. I'm pleased to get through one or two a month, and you're telling me Bush, in his time off from running the country, doing a couple hours of exercise a day, and going to bed early, has read sixty? Already? Pshah. Over at Dan Froomkin's site, a reader crunched some of the numbers involved:
Of the twelve books listed, I come up with a total page count of 5,356 pages, including 1,585 pages not available until at least 4/2006 of this year. That is an average page count of 450 pages per book. Multiply by his 60 books so far this year for a total page count of 27,000. 27,000 pages means the President would have to average a little over 115 pages per day. Reading a quick pace of a little over a minute per page, that is two hours a day of reading, and let's be honest, longer if you want to retain information in these types of books. And this from a man who prides himself in not reading the paper. I don't buy it.
Me neither. However, I'm happy to see Bush lying about this. It's long past time ignorance stopped offering bragging rights. And we can only hope that, like Carell's ill-fated but ultimately transformative comment, the mockery over Bush's bookworm pretensions will help him pop his intellectual cherry before too long. Until then, however, I recommend my colleague Matt's article making the counter-counter-intuitive case that, yes, George W. Bush is stupid, and it is a problem.