by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Time was when the elite media class obsessed over how many and what books presidents read. But since President Joe Biden took office, they’ve completely lost interest. Do they know something we don’t?
Before Biden, the press loved to ask presidents about their favorite books. What’s on their nightstand? What are they reading on vacation? It has always been treated as a sign of intelligence. A measure of sophistication.
The Daily Beast once compared presidential reading habits to how historians ranked them as presidents. “The results are not surprising—the top-ranked presidents all made our list near the top of presidential readers,” it reported.
The press lavished praise on Barack Obama and Bill Clinton for their book-reading habits. When Clinton was running in 1992, for example, the New York Times reported glowingly that he was “an omnivorous reader.” Obama’s summer reading list was treated as front-page news.
This fixation on presidents’ literary habits usually comes out strongest when a Republican is president as a way to prove they’re dumb.
When George W. Bush was running for president, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that “just how much Bush hits the books — or doesn’t — has suddenly become a campaign issue.”
Trump was routinely attacked for his lack of interest in books.
The Atlantic ran a lengthy piece — “The President Who Doesn’t Read” — that began: “Trump’s allergy to the written word and his reliance on oral communication have proven liabilities in office.”
The Washington Post ran a feature on “Who are the best-read presidents in history?” as a way to contrast Trump’s reading habits with other presidents.
The Hill ran a story with the snarky headline: “Trump’s favorite books? His own.” …
… So, out of curiosity, we looked for articles about Biden’s reading habits. And found almost nothing, except articles in book-lovers websites.