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Commentary :: Politics
"Trump does not read much"
19 Jan 2017
A new supposed weakness of the populist is now discovered: he doesn't read. Trump is certainly a new phenomenon. He pretends to be an outsider of the political system and of knowledge.

by Florian Roetzer

[This article published on 7/9/2016 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Hardly anyone regards Trump as an intellectual. But what does reading books mean for decisions of heads of state?

The Republican Party Convention began. Thwarting the nomination of Donald Trump was hardly imaginable. Some of the most important actors on the digital scene oppose him. The Washington Post newspaper purchased by Jeff Bezos, the head of Amazon, staged a campaign against wall builder Trump who pretends to be an outsider. A new weakness of the populist is now discovered: he doesn't read.

That the ambiguous populist is reproached for despising the virtues of the Gutenberg Galaxy may strike you as strange. "Donald Trump doesn't read much" [1], an article was titled. Do you think the members of the Republican Party would be impressed? Trump makes no secret he has no time to read. He says "I have never had time. I was always much occupied. Now I am probably more occupied than ever before."

Thus there is less time to read. But what does reading mean, books like biographies of US presidents? Supposedly Trump has not read any. The Washington Post explained Trump staples magazines to his writing desk, mostly with his picture on them. Though he reads articles, he doesn't have any books or any computer in his office…

There is no time for complicated discourse or dialectical trains of thought. Trump, the performer, has an "extraordinary light appetite for reading."

Trump makes it easy for critics. He says he doesn't need to read to make decisions. He makes decisions with the knowledge that he has common sense and knows all about business. He is skeptical of experts which makes him attractive for some people who reject intellectuals. Experts, Trump says, can see the trees and not the forest. Thus one must disregard details, that is the message. Presidents like Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had not read much unlike Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush or Jimmy Carter.

No one would describe Trump as an intellectual who studied economics and gained a Bachelor's. Obama appeared most as an intellectual. Bill and Hillary seem more educated than Trump or George W. Bush but were cultivated intellectuals. Whether those who read little, hardly any books or more complex texts are dumber as to government work is probably a matter of opinion whether it is crucial that the woman or man at the top of government is intelligent or well-read is hard to decide since leadership consists more in the exercise of power and balancing interest groups tan in decisions made independently because of independent knowledge.

But Trump is certainly a new phenomenon. He pretends to be an outsider of the political system and of knowledge. People decide with their bellies and demonstrate as presumed billionaires that they are successful. Trump says he will not read any long texts. There is no reason to read hundreds of pages since he is very "efficient." But he wants to read a book about Clinton and "Nothing New in the West." He recommended a book about positive thinking and the Art of War by Sun Tzu and a hundred books about China. That would not contradict the initial thesis. We may assume Trump is not a book-person who values polished arguments
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