The Corner

Bookish Presidents

I don’t think it’s at all important for political leaders to have written books, the way TR did and Hague has done. Impressive? Yes, in a way. Necessary? Absolutely not. There is much to learn from books, including lessons about political leadership; but I don’t think the act of writing books makes one a better political leader. Reagan never wrote a meaningful book. Neither did Washington or Lincoln. It is more important that presidents know how to make use of intellectuals than they be intellectuals themselves. Having said all that, I’d like to take up Peter Robinson’s challenge and point to the example of Calvin Coolidge: He could read Greek and Latin, and he even translated Dante from the original Italian.

John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

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