Monday, January 31, 2005

President Bush DOES Read History

Brian Lamb interviewed the President who revealed a degree of historical knowledge that many probably thought he lacked.
LAMB: What role have books played in your presidency?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, there's a -- I ended my convention speech in 2000, and one of the debates, with a phrase by a great Texan named Tom Lea, who wrote the definitive book on the King Ranch, but is a painter -- was a painter, and one of the paintings now hangs in the Oval Office. He said, "Sarah and I live on the east side of the mountain; the sunrise side, not the sunset side; the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that has gone." That's a very optimistic view. See, I see a better day coming.

It turns out that the President better have seen the day that has gone in order to be able to help lead to the day that is coming. In other words, history really matters for the President. And so I read a lot of history books. I'm reading the Washington book by Ellis right now. I read the Hamilton book by [Chernow], which I thought was a fascinating book. I can't remember all the books I read, but I do read a lot of books. And from that, I'm able to gain a better appreciation of where we're going.

For example, the Hamilton book I thought was a very interesting history of how hard it was to get democracy started, in some ways. And yet here we are in Iraq, trying to help them get democracy started, and yet it's expected to be done nearly overnight. And so it helps me keep a perspective of what's real and what's possible, and some of the struggles we went through.

Admittedly, we're dealing with different technologies than, obviously, in the old days. But, nevertheless, it's hard for democracy to take hold. And I think that history gives me a kind of -- it helps me better explain and understand exactly what we're seeing. And that's important for a policymaker to be able to grasp the realities of the situation based upon some historical lessons.

You know, I spent a lot of time talking about the Japanese after World War II, about how they were the sworn enemy, my dad fought them; I'm sure you've had relatives that know people that fought the Japanese. And yet today, because we insisted that Japan become a democracy, they're now our best friend, or one of our best friends. And that's an interesting history lesson, that 60 years after being a sworn enemy, we're now tight allies in leading the cause of freedom and peace, working together to deal with North Korea. Japan is helping a lot in Iraq.It just shows the power of freedom to change an enemy to a friend. That's something you learn from history books.

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