FAVORITES….Today’s mandatory blogging is about Mitt Romney’s declaration that his favorite novel is L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth, a bad science fiction book made into an even worse John Travolta vehicle a few years ago (Scott McLemee provides a precis here). Several people have suggested that Romney must be telling the truth about this since no one in his right mind would lie about liking this book, but I suspect something else: I suspect Romney just doesn’t read much fiction and was stuck for an answer. His neurons fired away momentarily searching for something to say, and Battlefield Earth is what popped up.
But here’s what I don’t get. As Matt Yglesias points out, questions like this are tough on image conscious politicians:
I do, however, sympathize with Romney since questions like this are intrinsically hard to answer. I feel like the media’s basic setup is that you ask it, then if the politician responds with something lowbrow he’ll be criticized for being dumb, and if he responds with something highbrow he’ll be criticized for being out-of-touch and aloof.
Right. So why aren’t they all prepared for this? Favorite novel. Favorite film. Favorite color. Favorite food. Most inspiring leader. Etc. Why wing it when it’s so easy to prepare in advance?
Needless to say, I’m here to help. Sort of. Four years ago I wrote a post suggesting good answers to the “favorite philosopher” question, and I recommend that all presidential wannabes read it. At the end, however, I promised to follow up with a selection of “safe, patriotic, audience friendly ‘favorite books,’” but I never came through. So let’s do it ourselves! Here are the original categories:
Moderately intellectual choice, suitable for being interviewed by George Will
Funny choice, suitable for being interviewed on MTV
Multicultural choice, suitable for being interviewed by New York Times
Populist choice, suitable for being interviewed by Parade
Safely patriotic choice, suitable for being interviewed by Rush Limbaugh
Thoughtful choice, suitable for being interviewed on PBS
Anti-terrorism choice, suitable for being interviewed by Andrew Sullivan
Fill in your recommendations in comments.
By the way, there are both fiction and nonfiction categories here. For example, I note that Romney, taking a page from George Bush’s playbook, later said that although Battlefield Earth is one of his favorite novels, his favorite book is the Bible. I wonder if he thinks that’s going to cut any ice with all those evangelicals who don’t think Mormons are real Christians?