Should politicians read more?
Michael Tomasky is "disquieted" by the fact that presidential hopeful John Edwards apparently had never heard of one James Q. Wilson:
I was disturbed by this most of yesterday. He didn’t even know who the man is.Over-react much? Jesus, of all the things that would bother me about a politician, a lack of awareness of a right-wing "intellectual" whose grand insight is that inner-city crime is the result of broken windows going unfixed would rank just behind his position on how to hang the toilet paper.
Supposedly this is a symptom of a larger problem:
One of the big problems with most politicians at Edwards’ level is that they don’t read seriously anymore. This means they don’t develop serious ideas of their own, and it makes them more susceptible to any shallow thing their pollsters and handlers tell them. It’s surely true of both parties, but it seems worse among Democrats for some reason.I don't think that the problem with politicians is that they don't read enough. I don't really understand this obsession with developing "new ideas"; with most political issues, the answer is pretty clear, it's just a matter of having the will to do the right thing. (How many books do you have to read to know that it's not OK to wage war without cause, or that women have the right to control their own bodies?)
As for the idea that reading more would make politicians less susceptible to consultants, I have two words: Al Gore. A notorious bookworm, Gore is the paradigm case of the over-handled candidate.
Don't get me wrong; I could think of a few books I'd like Democratic politicians to read (they could start with Nickeled and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, though Edwards specifically does seem to have a sensitivity to the plight of the poor). But if an increased reading load means more James Q. Wilson, they probably shouldn't bother.