The Corner

Re: Barack Obama the ‘powerful writer’

K Lo: What an absurd statement by NEA chief Rocco Landesman. He doesn’t mean that Obama is a powerful writer in the sense that he is a compelling writer; he means that he is a writer who wields a lot of political power. This is not necessarily a distinguished category of authorship: It includes the likes of Lenin and Hitler. (It also includes good men, such as Churchill.) The most powerful since Caesar? Egad.

Then there’s this comment:

This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln.

Wow. First of all, TR’s books are pretty good. I wish I could take a red pen to them every now and then, but the man was working with great material: He wrote about hunting, the Rough Riders, exploring the Amazon, etc. They are much better than anything Obama has written. Many historians believe the Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant sit at the top of the presidential literature pile. Mark Twain — presumably a better literary critic than Rocco Landesman — was a huge admirer. And since we’re on the subject of presidents who write their own books, let’s not forget Ronald Reagan. Sure, he used speechwriters and ghostwriters. But anybody who thinks he spent his life letting scribes put words in his mouth must sit down with Reagan In His Own Hand, a book whose contents he — um, how shall I put this? — wrote in his own hand.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.