Bush the bookworm

Some interesting and surprising titles on Dubya’s holiday reading list – well he is off for 5 weeks. Just hope he doesn’t try and read them upside down!

Bookworm Bush’s holiday reading

Jamie Wilson in Washington
Wednesday August 17, 2005
The Guardian

George Bush: all booked up. Photo: PA
George Bush has never had a reputation as a bookworm, but for a man derided by his critics as an intellectual lightweight the president’s holiday reading list packs a punch.

As well as brush cutting, mountain biking and fishing, the president will also be tucking into Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky during his five-week summer sojourn on his Texas ranch. The other tomes are reported to be Alexander II: the Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky and The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M Barry.

Article continues


“There’s nothing on that list that is a beach read, or even a busman’s holiday,” Peter Osnos, of the PublicAffairs publishing house, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a fair bet that George Bush is the only person in the entire US who chose those three books to read on vacation.”

Kurlansky, whose book charts the rise and fall of what was once seen as the world’s most strategic commodity, said he was surprised Mr Bush had taken his 484-page book to the ranch. “My first reaction was, ‘Oh, he reads books?'”

The president, who has often been ridiculed for his occasional mangling of the English language, has gone out of his way to let people know he does read books and newspapers.

But that has not stopped some advisers from highlighting his literary deficiencies. He is “often uncurious and as a result ill-informed”, his former speechwriter David Frum wrote in his memoir, adding that “conspicuous intelligence seemed actively unwelcome in the Bush White House”.

Earlier this year his wife, Laura, told the White House Correspondents Association dinner: “George and I were just meant to be … I was the librarian who spent 12 hours a day in the library, yet somehow I met George.”

  • slackjaw

    From the same people who brought you George Bush the alt.country fan….

    Anyway. Five weeks’ holiday. Not bad. How much holidays does the average American get these days?

  • Joe

    All Americans start with 2 weeks and many never get beyond that; especially since every time you change jobs, you’re back to 2 weeks.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Its a made up list he doesnt actually read any of them. His advisors come up with a list to make him seem more intellectual. He is an ignorant and intellectually vacuous man and no ‘book’ list will alter that fact. Still at least it makes it sound like he is doing something on his Presidential record breaking holidays. More holiday time than any other president in history while the average Ameriican gets 10 days holiday a year. Its the only thing keeping the USA ahead though as per hour productivity rates are equal in France and higher in Belgium. The USA’s GDP advantage is built on the back of an overworked and underprotected workforce while the elite rich enjoy their lengthy ‘reading holidays’ truly a capitalist paradise.

  • The Watchman

    Well, well. Not another “Dubya, he’s a complete thickie, isn’t he?” thread. I thought his reading list ain’t too bad, and in intellectual content it’s at least as good as mine.

    In case you’re wondering, I’m currently reading “The People with No Name” about the Ulster Presbyterian immigrants to America, and before that it was Tim Collins’s book (great book from a great Instonian) and “Pride and Prejudice”, unbelievably for the first time.

    As for intellect, I find that there’s a certain London type of a liberal-leftist world view that likes to consider itself well-read but which simply parrots prevailing fashion. Unlike myself, who is refreshingly unreconstructed in such matters.

    BTW, if I had to recommend any book, it would have to be James Webb’s “Born Fighting” about how the brave Ulster fighting breed shaped modern America.

    PS Duncan, please please do get involved in US politics. Will keep you out of mischief.

  • Rethinking Unionism

    The really vacuous reponse is to treat Bush as a dimwit. You don’t win 2 elections unless you have decent instincts and an ability to communicate basic vision to the electorate. Ironically Bush has “the vison thing” that eluded his father

  • Joe

    To be successful in politics, you have to be sincere. Once you can fake that, you have it made.

  • David

    Most of the “stupid cowboy/warmonger” invective against Dubya is not even original. It is merely a replay of all of the tired criticisms that were made of Reagan back in the 1980s.

    If we had decided to follow the supposedly intelligent and sophisticated CND crowd back then instead of the “stupid” Reagan we might have been able to join the eastern bloc just in time for its economic collapse.

    Intelligence is an overrated quality in politicians, especially when it eclipses common sense.

  • peteb

    “Most of the “stupid cowboy/warmonger” invective against Dubya is not even original.”

    More importantly, that invective never strays beyond ad hominem comment.

    As RU said – “You don’t win 2 elections unless you have decent instincts and an ability to communicate basic vision to the electorate.”

    If anyone thinks otherwise… they’re deluding themselves.

  • Katie

    In response to Joe… most americans who are employed by companies which choose to grant holidays start with 2 weeks….they are optional, I have read that 20% of American workers recieve no holidays at all, and that another 10-15 percent recieve one week or less.

  • Printemps

    You don’t win electins unless you have the money and cabinet to back you up. Dubya isn’t as dumb as many think, he’s got the common touch, but he’s not as smart as a world leader should be either. Lacking in diplomacy skills too – which is as important or more so than mere intelligence.

    Holidays in America are crap – so is maternity leave, etc. It really is a false economy. Hope George enjoys his though.

  • Kelvin Doherty


    The standard in the U.S. is two weeks and many companies will ‘persuede’ staff to take less. If you don’t then bang goes any chances of promotion etc. In Europe we are fortunate to have half decent legislation that should give us the basic 4 weeks or more.

  • Tampico

    Duncan Shipley Dalton,

    “He (Bush) is an ignorant and intellectually vacuous man”.

    Much better to be led by an academic bookworm with all the social skills of a potato than a man who, whatver his faults, can actually connect with people and, shock horror, win elections?

  • maca

    I’m sure somewhere in his collection is ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ and ‘Eating Pretzels for Dummies’.

  • The Watchman


    How dare you insult Mr Trimble like that.

  • Printemps

    If “Eating Pretzels for Dummies” had been in his collection, it would have saved him some trouble…

  • Tampico


    Have I accidently described the Nobel laureate?!

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Do you mean win elections as in get more votes? Or just my brother is the governor win elections?

    “He (Bush) is an ignorant and intellectually vacuous man”.

    Did I say stupid? No. I don’t suggest he is stupid, just vacuous and ignorant. A man doesn’t have to be stupid to be ignorant. He displays those qualities in spades but that does not make him stupid. He is devious, manipulative, and yes he is very very good at hoodwinking people into thinking he gives a damn about them and has the magic common touch. Maybe he should try it on Cindy Sheehan.

    My point is not the content of his ‘reading list’ but the likelihood he will actually read any of it. The whole book list thing reminds me of the Bush McCain debate in 2000 when he was asked by Judy Woodruff what lessons he had taken from James Chaces biography of Dean Acheson. He didn’t know anything about the book or about Acheson and had to answer with some potted drivel from his own stump speech which bore no relation to the contents of the book he had supposedly been reading. McCain then came in on his answer and directly quoted a passage of the book, just to prove he had read it.

    Maybe Watchman et al(I thought you didnt like the UK being to subservient to the USA?) are taken in by the book list as will many other Bush supporters but really try applying some of that critical energy you direct at Trimble to Bush and see how long his majesty stands up.

    By the way I am already involved in US politics but dont get your hopes up I won’t be giving up on events in NI anytime soon. By the way when do we get the Watchman wisdom on the DUP’s next play and how the Royal Irish (not RIR please) will be saved and all the evil apeasement stopped? Cant wait to hear the great battle plan now you guys are in the driving seat.

  • Alan McDonald


    You’re involved in US politics in the Bay state, that’s great. Over here in the Empire state, we hear that ex-governor of Massachusetts, William Weld, is thinking of running for governor of New York. (Weld was actually pretty good for a Republican, even well read!)

    Have we introduced you to the term “carpetbagger” yet?

  • Joe

    Katie is partially correct. Companies are legally required to pay employees 4% of their salary as vacation pay. whether you use that to take 2 weeks vacation is optional.

  • David


    The Democrats have only ever won Presidential elections in the last 30 years when they put forward southern candidates (LBJ, Carter, Clinton). The disdain that some in the party seem to have for the common touch, the south and the mid-west seems to be a big cause of their electoral setbacks.

  • Shay Begorah

    Or it could just be that the , poor, ill educated, deeply religious white trash in the south of the US are easilly fooled by Dubya’s (birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, status: millionaire son of former president) public exhibitons of ignorane and inarticulacy and fake good ole boy that they think he is one of their own rather than a man born into privilege who avoided Vietnam on the basis of familly connections and made millions through selling out his adopted state Texas.

  • Alan McDonald


    For a contrary position, see Am I Entitled to Vacation Pay?.

    The author (J. Steven Niznik) says:
    Vacation pay is not required by U.S. law, according to research resources at this writing. In fact, U.S. employers don’t have to offer vacation time off even without pay. Vacation pay is strictly voluntary for employers, but many offer it as a benefit to attract and keep employees.

  • Alan McDonald

    … and Joe,

    From the even more authoritative U.S. Department of Labor Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

    Question: How are vacation pay, sick pay, and holiday pay computed and when are they due?

    Answer: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations, sick leave or holidays (federal or otherwise). These benefits are a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee’s representative).

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Alan, I like the Bay State so it’s interesting and I hope to learn something useful to put into use if I head back to Belfast. I haven’t done much just helped with some research for a potential Gov candidate and a member of the KSG Student Dems. I knew about Weld and NY and yes for a Republican Gov he was a big improvement on Gov Romney. Mind you I met Mike Dukakis a few weeks back and he looks great for 70+ and if he ran again for Gov of MA he would get my vote(mind you that’s not much use as my citizenship will be unlikely to come through in time for the 2006 elections unless DHS are really super efficient.)

    On the wider issue of why the Dems cant get better results if I knew that I would be a millionaire campaign consultant like Bob Shrum (only of course I would win elections). What’s the matter with Kansas eh?

  • Alan McDonald


    I just started reading “What’s the matter with Kansas” after being prompted by Kitty on another thread. Most of the Dems I know here in upstate New York spend most of their time fighting each other.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Alan, Same in MA. Its because there aren’t any Republicans here to fight with. The State House is overwhelmingly Dem with a rump of Republicans not even 25% of the total, none from Boston. The Congressional seats are the same, MA has not a single Republican Congressman. So of course in a one party state the fights are all internal instead.

    Don’t get too hung up on Kansas by the way. Kansas never really voted Democrat. Carter got 45% of the vote in 1976 when he swept the South. In 1964 Goldwater got 38% nationally and 45% in Kansas. The Dems have only carried Kansas as part of major landslides in the 20th century. In a 50-50 nation it’s not even in play. The big coming questions are not ‘what’s the matter with Kansas’ but what’s happening in Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and maybe after the result in the 2nd District race, in Ohio. It’s the mid west next time the South is a GOP lock for a while yet so best not to obsess too hard about it in my view. I say more lets have states rights and let states make their own choices and suffer the consequences. If no one in Kansas wants to be any good at biology then so be it. Democracy should be about the right to make stupid choices as well as good ones.

  • Alan McDonald


    After Democracy should be about the right to make stupid choices as well as good ones, I was going to say “Welcome to America!” But, then I realized, you might be (probably were) talking about Northern Ireland.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    As granpa Simpson once said: “A little from Column A and a little from Column B.”

  • alexander bowman


    ‘obsess’ isn’t a verb…yet.

    Other than that your postings are, as usual, a point.

    You might not have seen today’s Guardian. In his column Sid Blumentahl has this to say about the chimp’s R&R. (It’s not, by the way, a new thing with him; most of his national service for what that was worth – itself, to begin with, a dire cop-out for such a super-patriot – was spent in R&R.)

    “Sandstorms by the banks of the Euphrates swirl to the Waco River, and the presidential vacationer, besieged by marches, has turned querulous. As his crusade is being overtaken by a sense of futility, Bush explained why he would not meet Cindy Sheehan:

    ‘I think it’s also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life.’ ‘This week he’s planned a bicycle ride with Lance Armstrong.”

  • peteb

    Worth noting, alexander, that Bush did meet with Cindy Sheehan before her current, higher profile, campaign began.

    Blumenthal.. sheesh.

  • Alan McDonald


    OK, I’ll bite, why is it worth noting?

  • peteb

    Because she’s now demanding another meeting.. as if Bush hadn’t actually already talked to her about the death of her son.. or so the coverage implies.

  • Shay Begorra

    Hey Pete, I know tht many of us think that Cindy is being a little ungracious by not accepting Dubya’s platitudes about the needless death of her son in an illegal war. Does she hate freedom or something?

    I think that the chimp is going to have to bomb Iran pretty soon to once again demonstrate his common touch and try and change the narrative.

  • peteb

    trolls *sheesh*

  • Shay Begorra

    My apologies, I got the impression from the threads title that we were talking about the POTUSA and his holiday reading. Sheeesh. Sheeesh. Sheeesh?

  • alexander bowman

    Cindy Sheehan got snowed by El Pretzel last year at a time when he was saying he and his allies had won what the wretched nit referred to as ‘the battle of Iraq.”

    A year and more later that lie’s transparency becomes, daily, more blatant. Perhaps, then, she was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and accept her son’s sacrifice as worthwhile. Perhaps, now , she doesn’t want other parents to suffer as she has.

    Furthermore, Most of the unnecessarily bereaved folk Dubya talks to are hand-picked patriots.

    Reminded me of that other super-patriot dick Cheney when asked how he managed to get so many deferrals re: his service in Vietnam. “I had other priorities at the time…” (Lining his pockets)

    That rather sticks in the craw.

    Finally, it was the offhand way Cheetah compared her request for a meeting with his chance to schmooze with a genuine folk-hero…Priorities?

  • peteb

    I got the impression from the threads title that we were talking about the POTUSA and his holiday reading.

    Youdthink eh?



    Interesting that the side you disagree with snowed her then.. but now, as opposed to then, she’s a a genuine folk-hero

    Priorities? Yeah.. right.

  • alexander bowman

    my fault for expressing myself unclearly. Bush “snowed’ her because, a year ago, he CAN’T have believed the war was done and ddusted and the allies had won. My argument was that .in what may have been a triumph of hope over expectation she accepted this analysis and, in turn, this made her son’s death less hard to take.

    I know it’s late.

    The ‘genuine folk-hero’ I was referring to was the cyclist Lance Armstrong

  • peteb

    My argument was that .in what may have been a triumph of hope over expectation she accepted this analysis and, in turn, this made her son’s death less hard to take.

    A triumph that ignored her son’s decision to sign up in the first place. Cold-hearted.. maybe.. but realistic beyond the simplistic and emotionally directed arguments now being produced.

    The ‘genuine folk-hero’ I was referring to was the cyclist Lance Armstrong

    Which is simply an example of the answer to the question – “What’s on your schedule today Mr President?”

  • alexander bowman

    Simply an answer to the question “What’s in the schedule today Mr.President?”

    A CNN report gives an interesting insight into the attention the Pretz pays to his schedule. In his first meeting with Mrs.Sheehan and members of 15 other bereave families last July (which, according to you, she ought to have been satisfied with) Bush’s opening comment on entering he room where they were all gathered was

    “Alright, so who are we honoring today?”

    At least he knew the cyclist’s name. Priorities?

  • Joe

    Alan, I stand corrected. I live in Canada so I made the (apparently false) assumption that our labour laws are similar to those of the USA (they usually are). Thank you for setting me straight.
    Regards, joe

  • Katie

    The majority of service industry jobs do not pay ANY vacation, or they sell the “Idea” of vacation, to those who work a full time work week, meaning 40 hrs, and then schedule all employees for a 39.5 hr week, thus making them ineligible…. not pretty but is true.

  • The Binlid

    Neatly folded inside the books were this months issue of Playboy, Penthouse and most importantly Captain America.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Alexander, “Other than that your postings are, as usual, a point.” a point, que?

    Actually just to be a pedant about it according to the Oxford Dictionary of English:


    → verb
    [with obj.] preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually and to a troubling extent: he was obsessed with thoughts of suicide | I became more and more obsessed by him.

    • [no obj.] be constantly talking or worrying about something: her husband, who is obsessing about the wrong she has done him.
    – ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense ‘haunt, possess’, referring to an evil spirit): from Latin obsess- ‘besieged’, from the verb obsidere, from ob- ‘opposite’ + sedere ‘sit’. The current sense dates from the late 19th cent.

    So it is a verb it would seem. But my English is always subject to imperfection and your welcome to be pedantic

  • Alan McDonald

    Yo, Dunc!

    Am I welcome to be pedantic, or should I say, is my welcome? (See “your welcome” rather than “you’re welcome” above.)

    My bad, or is it your bad?

  • The Watchman

    In response to Duncan’s post yesterday, I don’t think I have ever said anything about Bush here before. I am slightly torn. On the one hand I am sympathetic to the Salisburyite realpolitik and Powellite suspicion of America. On the other hand, I admire Bush for being the most socially conservative President for years, and am sympathetic to the idea of spreading democracy throughout the Middle East. I also enjoy Mark Steyn and find it hard to disagree with his polemics.

    As for the DUP, I don’t think there’s a lot to write at present. The UUP seems to think that throwing anything it can at the DUP over the RIR betrayal or the loyalist feud will help it regain ground but I doubt it. The other reason is that Yours Truly is presently in the process of e-courting. One suspects a penetrating analysis of unionism would not be entirely helpful in this regard. Who knows, the first boy might even be called Duncan.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Alan, my bad it should indeed be ‘you are’ or even ‘you’re’ so wrist well slapped and an ode for the humble apostrophe. It has been pointed out to me before that I seem to have an aversion to the use of the apostrophe, maybe it was a traumatic childhood experience?

    Watchman“don’t think I have ever said anything about Bush here before. I am slightly torn. On the one hand I am sympathetic to the Salisburyite realpolitik and Powellite suspicion of America. On the other hand, I admire Bush for being the most socially conservative President for years, and am sympathetic to the idea of spreading democracy throughout the Middle East. I also enjoy Mark Steyn and find it hard to disagree with his polemics.”

    I knew you were a Powellite and had guessed at the anti Americanism from your Goldstein association. Didn’t know you were into the intelligent design social conservatism though. As for Mark Steyn need more be said. So is Osama dead then?

    “The other reason is that Yours Truly is presently in the process of e-courting. One suspects a penetrating analysis of unionism would not be entirely helpful in this regard. Who knows, the first boy might even be called Duncan.”

    It’s a good Scottish name. Interesting that you choose not to take the chance to kick a downed DUP when you certainly never exercised the same concern for unionisms position when the UUP were making all the plays. The Royal Irish(it is not correct to refer to the RIR and if you had been a member you would recall the CO and the RSM drumming that fact into your head repeatedly) issue is illustrative of the hard realities running up to the DUP.

    It is easy to be a complainer and to think that a bit more gumption or one more protest would make all the difference but in reality it’s a multi party game with many players who have varying levels of influence and power. No lack of ‘ideological passivity’ will ever change that fact. Unfortunately unionism is not the one with all the powers and choices and if HMG wants something then HMG largely gets something. It will be of interest to see how the DUP play it out and one hopes that a concerted effort will be made (as Robinson seemed to hint) to look for pragmatic and concrete delivery of concessions to members of the Regiment and to at least ensure that financial hardship is avoided. As for a ‘save the RIR’ movement (aside from the annoyance to people like me who dislike the term RIR) it’s going nowhere and will ultimately not deliver. The question as it was so many times in the UUP is simply one of how much will you pay to pursue what you perceive to have lost. Never an easy question to answer once the emotion dies down a little. Devolution off the table for 2 years? Will that help? Will momentum be lost and sacrificed to an ascendant SF who will most likely enjoy a good Irish election in 2007 and be well placed for talks in 2007. The imponderables I suppose we must all watch this space.

    But how will we all manage to keep up our unionist sprits up without the ever watchful eye and steely temperament of the Ulster watchman to ensure our representatives don’t wobble at the knees? Who knew that an emailed bone was all it took to buy out our faithful watchdog! :)…

  • The Watchman

    What “Goldstein association”? You have to remember, Duncan, that I’m not The Friend of Burnside you think I am, so I’m not going to get all your allusions. Sorry.

    Yes, Steyn makes the odd boob, although at least he never publicly wrote off Smiler’s South Antrim chances in 2001.

    Thanks for the Royal Irish correction. However, you never seem to have corrected your old profile on the NI Assembly website, which described you as a member of the “Royal Irish Regiment”. Obviously the poor soul who put that stuff on didn’t bravely serve in uniform like yourself and so never had the CO and RSM drumming the name into him.

    Duncan is indeed a good Scottish name, probably most famous from “Macbeth”. Now if only the eponymous monarch in the play had had the sense to abdicate and go to study at Florence or wherever. He should have realised his time was up and the knives were out.

    As for the DUP, I haven’t been afraid to criticise its parochialism, and its latent sectarianism and ambition. But I don’t believe the party can be greatly faulted for things over the last few months – and certainly not by those who are tarnished by their past associations. (I don’t remember you backing Jeffrey, whether from South Antrim or from Massachusetts, in 2003 when he called that UUC meeting to reject the Joint Declaration.) My gripe with Trimble was never that he failed to prevent the NIO doing nasty things that was squarely within its competence to do. It was (a) that his style of political engagement encouraged the NIO to proceed on the basis that it knew Trimble would huff and puff but never take any nuclear option, and (b) that he failed to use leverage when he had it.

    Oh and if I’m going to be away from the Ulster battlements to do my Mr Darcy thing, I will just have to rely on you to squeeze into your metaphorical fatigues to hold the line. It’s as well you’re now an expert in Homeland Security. Even so, don’t be tricked into handing over the fortress in my absence.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Oh dear did I catch a nerve? No to use the term Royal Irish Regiment is correct. The incorrect reference is to the RIR. The short form of the Regiments name is the Royal Irish not the RIR that’s my pedantic point.

    True I did get that prediction wrong in 2001 as I thought SA was still a loss. Luckily along came Norman Boyd to help out. Got my prediction right in 2000 and 2005 though and I still firmly believe that a convicted felon is a bad candiate for the UUP whatever his other views are.

    You and others have still never understood the limits of the Trimble’s leverage. In my view he stretched it as far as he could and at times further than I believed was possible. We will have to wait and see how your new lovers in the DUP manage to play their hand. Not an auspicious start so far though.

    Been reading my Rappaport profile I see. The advantages of knowing who you are talking too. Oh well keep it up on Airstrip One and keep well.