Sunday, June 1, 2008

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The New York Times didn't ask me, but then again, that's why I have this blog

The New York Times Book Review asked a bunch of writers which books they would recommend to the presidential candidates. Most of the submissions said more about the writer's politics than anything else, though I liked Gore Vidal's response best:

I can only answer in the negative: I want them not to read The New York Times, while subscribing to The Financial Times.
Well, I'd like the candidates to read this blog during their oodles of spare time, so here are five books worth perusing:
1) David Stockman, The Triumph of Politics. This is the classic parable of a bright young man who went to Washington brimming with ideas -- only to run into the brick wall of politics.

2) James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds. The President of the United States has a bias towards centralization. This book is a very useful guide to understanding the large category of issues and phenomenon when centralization and/or hierarchy is not the best course of action (and the small category when such an approach is vital).

3) Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals. What comes through this book is how Lincoln was able to lead -- starting from a position of initial weakness -- so effectively. Two things stood out for me -- his complete lack of pettiness or vanity, and his keen recognition of when doing the political thing was actually the right thing to do.

4) Martin Wolf, Why Globalization Works/Dani Rodrik, One Economics, Many Recipes. Obama should read Wolf, and McCain should read Rodrik.

5) Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit. I can't see how a politician could navigate the Beltway without grasping this concept at its deepest level.

And for Hillary Clinton, I also have a book recommendation -- and not Macbeth, which popped up more than once on the NYTBR's list. No, Senator Clinton should read Jeff Shesol's Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud that Defined a Decade. A story about two ambitious politicians with similar policy objectives and radcally different styles. Plus, t would allow Clinton to refresh her memory about those historical references to the sixties that she keeps making.

posted by Dan on 06.01.08 at 09:54 AM


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