On incurious presidents
(Correction, 11:30 p.m.: As Paul Nachman points out, the New York Times panel discussion concerns not Obama and Bush, but only Bush. No president is mentioned by name in the opening part of the video, and when an audience member asked a question about “this president,” I automatically but wrongly assumed that the video, which was not dated on the web page [though now I see that there is a date of 2006 in the URL], was current and that “this president” meant Obama, and that Dowd then changed the subject to Bush. But on a second viewing, the references make it obvious that the unnamed “this president” is Bush as well. The fact that the video is several years old also explains why Dowd and Brooks look better on the video than they do in their present official photographs. It also bespeaks a partisan obsession on the Times’ part that, without date [except in the URL] or introduction, they link a several year old panel discussion about President George W. Bush’s incuriosity and other inadequacies.)
Here is an interesting panel discussion exchange between David Brooks and Maureen Dowd on the lack of intellectual curiosity of, respectively, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Dowd makes an intriguing distinction between Bush the elder, who liked to get on the phone and talk to lots of world leaders and pick up information from varied sources, and his son, who, in order to get his information, such as it was, confined himself to a tiny circle of ideologically monotonic advisors.
On a side point, I see from watching the video that Maureen Dowd is not unattractive and not without charm. Why, then, does she choose as the regular photograph accompanying her op-ed columns a photo in which she looks like an aged, evil witch?
This is a phenomenon I have noted repeatedly and it bemuses me: prominent political writers deliberately selecting as their official photograph a photo that makes them look much worse than they actually look. David Brooks on video also looks much better, and more normal, than his creepy current official photograph suggests.
Why do I care about this issue, which many people would regard as non-existent or as too trivial to bother mentioning? Curiousity.