Bizarro Books the Gop Reads
Begala, Paul, Newsweek
Byline: Paul Begala
Anti-Christian odes to selfishness? Crypto-Confederate manifestos? On the wacky study habits of the Republican candidates.
ONE OF THE strangest moments in Mitt Romney's uncomfortable interview with Fox News's Brett Baier a couple of weeks ago came when Baier asked him for the name of the last book he's read. "I'm reading sort of a fun one right now," he explained, "so I'll skip that." Then he hurried on to say he just finished George W. Bush's Decision Points. (Which, as Jon Stewart noted, he also said he had "just finished" six months ago.)
But wait: what's such a guilty pleasure that Mitt dares not speak its name? Japanese cartoon porn? One of those novels about adolescent vampires? (A cute answer if you're a 15-year-old girl, but kinda creepy if you're a grandfather running for president.)
But maybe the answer's worse. When he was asked by Fox to name his favorite novel back in 2007, Romney said Battlefield Earth, the magnum opus of sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard is perhaps best known as the founder of Scientology--a religion that many Americans consider a cult. Given the lamentable but real anti-Mormon prejudice that afflicts many Americans--and especially Republican primary voters, many of whom also consider Mormonism a cult--citing a novel by the founder of Scientology is loading a lot of freight on the old wagon. Perhaps that's why Mitt was so reluctant to reveal to Baier what he's currently reading for fun.
"What books are you reading?" is hardly a trick question. JFK famously identified with reg'lar guys of his generation when he let it be known that he loved Ian Fleming's James Bond novel From Russia With Love. Bill Clinton loved mysteries, especially by Walter Mosley, Sarah Paretsky, and the original Texas Jewboy, Kinky Friedman. Barack Obama has reportedly read every Harry Potter novel.
Predictably, the current GOP nominees have more.?.?.eclectic tastes. National Journal has reported that Ron Paul quotes Ayn Rand on the House floor more than any other member. Rand was a virulently anti-Christian uber-libertarian whose turgid prose and supremely selfish philosophy has inspired decades of trust-fund kids to smoke dope at boarding school and mock homeless people. …