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  • Reading Suggestions for the Candidates

    Posted by David Foster on June 3rd, 2008 (All posts by )

    The NYT Book Review asked various writers to recommend books for the candidates. (Link via PowerLine.)

    By and large, I didn’t think the suggestions were very deep. Can we do better?

     

    4 Responses to “Reading Suggestions for the Candidates”

    1. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Yes, We Can!

    2. Lexington Green Says:

      The panelists the NYT selected are idiots, and the book selections, generally, are stupid. It gives these vapid, self-important literary folk an opportunity to flaunt their imagined superiority. A waste of newsprint.

      Garry Wills, whom I despise, at least had the wit to say: “politicians don’t read books”, certainly not in the middle of a presidential campaign. Henry Kissinger once said that holding office was a time when your intellectual capital is being consumed. You do not have time or energy to add to it.

      However, on the pretense that these people had time to read a book, I would recommend to McCain Milton Friedman’s short book, almost an essay, Capitalism and Freedom. It is more than 40 years old, but the ideas in it are still timely. McCain needs most guidance on the econ side.

      To Obama I would recommend Eliot A. Cohen, Supreme Command, which is short and might give him some insights on how to be an effective Commander-in-Chief, the area where he needs the most guidance.

      If either of them had time for a second book, I would recommend Stephen Ambrose’s biography of Eisenhower, the second volume, covering the presidency. Maybe even better, have someone on their staff read it, and prepare a memorandum of lessons learned. Eisenhower faced many serious crises, foreign and domestic, and generally handled them well. He was a good manager and a good executive, something neither McCain or Obama have ever had to do. Eisenhower understood the dual roles of the President, as the symbolic head of the country, and as the senior executive, and he executed both roles well, the second one generally quietly, even secretly. We had eight “boring” years of relative peace and prosperity under Eisenhower. The new president should try to emulate that.

    3. david foster Says:

      Peter Drucker’s classic “The Practice of Management” would be good remedial reading for all of them. They could also all benefit from some books that give a feel as to how business actually works–Richard Preston’s “American Steel,” which is about Nucor, is a good example.

      Specifically for Obama, I would recommend some books about Weimar Germany and the early Nazi period, to help him better understand the dangers of people who look to politics for a sense of meaning in their lives and who seek “change” as and end in itself. There are quite a few of these, but the memoir “Defying Hitler,” by Sebastian Haffner, would be a good place to start.

    4. david foster Says:

      Washington Times yesterday had some snippets from philosophers & writers that they felt appropriate for the candidates. For Hillary, there was this St-Exupery quote:

      “A chief is a man who takes responsibility. He says, ‘I was beaten.’ He does not say, ‘My men were beaten.'”

      The pasage is from “Flight to Arras,” in which St-Ex describes his thoughts before, during, and after a single reconnaissance flight in 1940. It is a short but deep meditation on duty, society, and civilization, and would be worthwhile reading for all of the candidates.

      Also from St-Ex is “Wisdom of the Sands” (an unfortunate title: it was called “Citadelle” in French)…the meditations of a (fictional) desert sheikh on the art of government. A thought-provoking and sometimes disturbing book.