The Corner

POTUS and the Culture

Everyone should read everything that Tevi Troy writes, so it goes without saying that his new book, What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted, is well worth your while. The book is not only overflowing with fascinating stories that every political junkie will love, it is also full of insight about how politics and culture are deeply interconnected. Tevi is both a historian and a former senior White House staffer, so he’s uniquely suited to understanding what matters most in the story he relates. His book describes both how presidents have been shaped by the culture of their times and how they have tried to use popular culture to their advantage (mostly clumsily and unsuccessfully, but not always). 

Tevi is also a conservative, cultural and otherwise, and so it is hard to leave his book without a sense that the long trajectory of our cultural history points downward (or as he puts it, “from Cicero to Snooki”). But he’s a conservative with a genuine appreciation of genuinely popular culture, and with a sense that high and low culture (like high and low politics) coexist and always have. It’s that very sense, I suspect, that enabled him to write a book that is both deep and fun.  

Do read it.

Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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