Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Obama reads about Reagan

Just before Christmas, the White House announced the president's reading list, which included The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon - still pretty much the essential book on Reagan's presidency, though I'd probably reccomend Richard Reeves. The choice is presumably a nod to the centennial, to the spirit of bipartisan understanding, and an invitation to compare the two presidencies. Conservatives have read it as an attempt to emulate Reagan. "Mr. Obama," says son Michael, "apparently thinks that if he can learn how to play the role of a Reaganesque president, he can become as successful as my father, Ronald Reagan." Tevi Troy suggests that:
[H]e is looking to a great president for clues as to how he, too, can become a great president. Reagan’s communication skills were of course superb, but his policies had something to do with it as well, and Obama would have to take on some of Reagan’s ideology to learn the full lesson of Reagan.
If Obama wants to learn anything from Reagan, I expect, it is about how to behave around a hostile Congress (and possibly with a fractious Middle East). Both Troy and M. Reagan's comments seem part of a resurgent defence of Reagan's conservative identity, more of which later.

Incidentally, Reagan only released one reading list during his presidency, on the request of the Baltimore Sun. It included a book on Thomas Jefferson, and one which imagined a near-future outbreak of World War - that would get the bloggers tapping nowadays!

Also incidentally, last year Obama announced that he was reading Edmund Morris's The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. After Reagan read the book, Morris was picked to be his official biographer - no such result for Morris from the Obama White House so far, though it would certainly raise an interesting stink. Morris's thoughts on the announcement here.

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