That was Michael Gerson, formerchiefspeechwritertoPresident Bush from 2001 to 2006, discussing the president’s “voracious” reading habits and related perceptions duringaguestappearanceonC-SPAN’s A” with Brian Lamb on Jan 7.
“[A] couple of months ago it was leaked out by somebody that he was readingAlbertCamus’‘TheStranger.’ Does that track for what you know of George Bush?” asked Mr. Lamb.
“Sure,” Mr. Gerson replied. “The president is a voracious reader and recommended to me a variety of books when I was at the White House, and gave them to me. He recommended to me [. . .] ‘A Godly Hero,’ the biography of William Jennings Bryan, a book he’d read.
“Recommended to me [. . .] the book on Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson, the relationship between the two men. And he recommended to me the pope’s [Benedict XVI] book on relativism.”
That left Mr. Lamb scratching his head.
“So, why then is his image one of — you know, people scoff at the fact that he reads. And they say he’s not very intelligent. I mean, you hear that. Where does that come from? And why? Does he want that kind of an image?” the interviewer asked.
“I don’t know,” Mr. Gerson reasoned. “Throughout his career, in someways,he’sbenefitedfrombeing underestimated. [. . .] The assumption would be that he, you know, that he would fail. And, of course, we succeeded in a variety of these settings, and certain people always seem to be shocked and surprised.”
Offered Mr. Gerson: “I think the president is — he’s not anti-intellectual, but he is anti-elitist.”
John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or email@example.com.