IS OUR PRESIDENT READING?…It’s hardly the most important element of Peter Baker’s piece on Bush’s behind-the-scenes state of mind, but Baker does tackle an enduring question: Does the president read newspapers?

To an extent, Bush walls himself off from criticism. He does read newspapers, contrary to public impression, but watches little television news and does not linger in the media echo chamber.

I really would like to believe that the president reads newspapers, but there’s reason for some skepticism here. Baker argues that the “public impression” of the president’s reading habits is mistaken. But how was this impression shaped? By the president repeatedly telling people that he doesn’t read newspapers.

Bush told Fox News’ Brit Hume, for example, “I glance at the headlines just to kind of [get] a flavor for what’s moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are [sic] probably read the news themselves.”

For that matter, Bush talked to the Washington Times’ Bill Sammon [link no longer available] and boasted about his news-consuming habits, or in this case, lack thereof.

“I don’t watch the nightly newscasts on TV, nor do I watch the endless hours of people giving their opinion about things,” the president said. “I don’t read the editorial pages; I don’t read the columnists.”

Yet Mr. Bush regularly monitors the news pages of a select few daily publications.

“I get the newspapers — the New York Times, The Washington Times, The Washington Post and USA Today — those are the four papers delivered,” he said. “I can scan a front page, and if there is a particular story of interest, I’ll skim it.”

Maybe this explains the “public impression” about Bush’s reading habits?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.