Southern Man

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Books and Presidents

A much-publicized comment by the new head of the National Endowment for the Arts, Rocco Landesman, caught Southern Man's eye the other day. "This is the first president," he says (in reference to the Chosen One) "that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln."

Unless Southern Man's memory deceives him (which it does with alarmingly increasing frequency these days) autobiographies and memoirs and other missives of various sorts have been thrust upon us with authorship claimed by (let's see here) former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald R. Ford, Richard M. Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S Truman, Hervert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, and Woodrow Wilson (just to name thirteen of the last sixteen presidents, with the only non-writers being George W. Bush (so far), Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Warren G. Harding). While one can imagine that while these works no doubt benefited from the aid of research assistants and editors, there is not much doubt that most of the words are the alleged author's own. Does Landesman hold that Kennedy's Profiles in Courage is second-rate, or that Eisenhower's Crusade In Europe was ghostwritten? Does he imagine that anything penned by Glorious Leader will still be in print a century from now, as Teddy Roosevelt's The Naval War of 1812 (to name one of the nearly forty books that fell from his pen - look at this list and note how many of these century-old books have modern ISBNs) or Ulysses S. Grant's Personal Memoirs are today, or that He is equaled only by Abraham Lincoln as a presidential author?

Oh, wait. While Lincoln was highly regarded as a speaker and letter-writer (Southern Man submits the Gettysburg Address and
Letter to Mrs. Bixby, even though authorship of the latter is contested), he wrote no books.

And this is the guy running the National Endowment for the Arts. Sheesh.
As Glen Reynolds of Instapundit is fond of saying, it appears that the country's in the very best of hands.


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