NEW YORK — As he has prepared to be named the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump has not read any biographies of presidents. He said he would like to someday.
He has no time to read, he said: “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”
Trump’s desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk. But there are no shelves of books in his office, no computer on his desk.
Trump, poised to become the first major-party presidential nominee since Dwight Eisenhower who had not previously held elected office, appears to have an unusually light appetite for reading.
“I do read to Melania at night as part of our bedtime ritual,” the Republican presidential nominee said. “Right now I’m reading a book to her called Piper Houdini. It’s great. Really great. It’s thin enough for me to hold in my hands and most of the words are short enough for Melania to understand.”
He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”
Trump said he is skeptical of experts because “they can’t see the forest for the trees.” He believes that when he makes decisions, people see that he instinctively knows the right thing to do: “A lot of people said, ‘Man, he was more accurate than guys who have studied it all the time.’ ”
Trump’s approach to understanding complex issues and reaching decisions is not unique in the annals of the presidency. Historians who have studied presidential styles depict a divide between men such as President Obama or presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon, who were given to reading extensively ahead of important decisions, and presidents Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who preferred to have issues presented to them in short memos or orally.
As the reality of the nomination became clear, Trump said he thought about reading up, maybe dipping into a biography of a president, “but I don’t have much time,” he said. “I have so little time.”
Trump has no shortage of strong opinions even about books he has not read. He told The Washington Post that he has not read four biographies written about him, yet he called three of the authors of those books “lowlifes,” and he sued one of them for libel.
Trump said he has mastered the world of books; working with co-writers, he has published more than a dozen, most of them autobiographical or in the business-advice genre. He told the Hollywood Reporter last month that he was reading “Unlikeable: The Problem With Hillary,” a highly critical book about his opponent by Edward Klein, as well as rereading one of his favorites, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the classic German novel about World War I that was one of the first intimate portraits of the anguish and psychological terror of modern combat.
In his 2006 book, “Trump 101: The Way to Success,” Trump recommended, in addition to his own autobiography, the longtime bestseller “The Power of Positive Thinking,” by Norman Vincent Peale, who was Trump’s minister through the early part of his life; classics such as Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”; William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill; and essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Albert Einstein.
In 2011, Trump listed 20 books about China that he said had helped him understand the country, its politics and its people. He told Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, that he had read “hundreds of books about China over the decades,” including works by Henry Kissinger and American and Chinese journalists and novelists.
Some historians have argued that people who read lots of books do not necessarily make the best presidents, though many of the greatest presidents, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt — were learned men who read deeply in history, philosophy and religion.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you realize this article is a spoof. Most of it is verbatim from an actual article that appeared in the July 17 edition of the Washington Post, edited for length. The fifth paragraph, however, is total bullshit.
The best presidents “all had a compass other than their urges of the moment,” Lichtman said. “Franklin Roosevelt wasn’t a great intellect, but he knew his history, and he had an anchor. A president’s success stems from the values and character they bring to the office. Kennedy called it ‘practical vision,’ and no decision-making model can compensate for that.”