The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, March 30, 2007


I honestly don't remember what my first thought was when I saw the title "Bush's Favorite Historian," but I knew it would be anything but reassuring. And for once, I'd like to be wrong. Couldn't we get just one teeny tiny morsel of information that suggests there's at least a sliver of something in him that isn't entirely motivated by greed, ignorance, or woefully misplaced narcissism.

President Bush is sometimes a boastful anti-intellectual, but in the past year he has been touting his reading lists and engaging in who-can-read-more contests with his chief political adviser, Karl Rove. (Bush claimed to have read 60 books in just the first seven and a half months of last year, the pace of a full-time reviewer.) [My guess: he looks at the first page, decides that he can 'see the soul' of the author, and leaves it at that.]. . .

Bush invited [conservative British writer Andrew] Roberts for a discussion over lunch at the White House earlier this month. The author was joined by Dick Cheney (who was recently photographed carrying the book), Rove, and a group of neoconservative intellectuals including Norman Podhoretz and Gertrude Himmelfarb, along with various other officials and conservative journalists. Though the event was supposed to be off the record, several participants wrote it up afterward. Bush's embrace of Roberts' book is hardly surprising, given how it glorifies his presidency. . . .

Roberts is as sloppy as he is snobbish. I am seldom bothered by minor errors from a good writer, but Roberts' mistakes are so extensive, foolish, and revealing of his basic ignorance about the United States in particular, that it may be worth noting a few of those I caught in a fast read. The San Francisco earthquake did considerably more than $400,000 in damage. Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself in 1941, did not write for Encounter, which began publication in 1953. The Proposition 13 Tax Revolt took place in the 1970s, not the 1980s—an important distinction because it presaged Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. Michael Milken was not a "takeover arbitrageur," whatever that is. Roberts cannot know that there were 500 registered lobbyists in Washington during World War II because lobbyists weren't forced to register until 1946. Gregg Easterbrook is not the editor of the New Republic. "No man gets left behind" is a line from the film Black Hawk Down, not the motto of the U.S. Army Rangers; their actual motto is "Rangers Lead the Way." In a breathtaking peroration, Roberts point out that "as a proportion of the total number of Americans, only 0.008 percent died bringing democracy to important parts of the Middle East in 2003-5." Leaving aside the question of whether those deaths have brought anything like democracy to Iraq, 0.008 percent of 300 million people is 24,000—off by a factor of 10, which is typical of his arithmetic.

That ignores all the stuff in the article about racially-tinged language, a pro-imperialist stance, and oodles of praises for Bush. In short, it's complete crap that only an egotistical despot could love. Like anyone in the White House Book Club.