Time is the most precious commodity for any Washingtonian, especially at the highest levels of government and media. So what little time a person has for pleasure reading in this city often offers intriguing clues as to the issues and ideas foremost on their always-churning, Type-A minds.
Would it surprise you, then, that with control of the U.S. Senate hanging in the balance this fall, the GOP's top political strategist is reading about a Democrat who was one of history's most powerful Senate majority leaders? Or that in the face of a looming war with Iraq, one of the president's top national security strategists is reading about the pros and cons of preemptive strikes when it comes to modern warfare in the Middle East? Here is what some of Washington's top politicos are reading this summer:
Dick Cheney, vice president of the United States-
Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Israeli military historian Michael B. Oren. The behind-the-scenes true story of a daring, risky, preemptive, but successful first strike against a fearsome military machine controlled by an Arab despot (Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, not Iraqi President Saddam Hussein).
The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by historian H.W. Brands. An intimate portrait of one of the wisest and most influential Americans never to become president.
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Washington, D.C.-based magazine writer Laura Hillenbrand. An inspiring and true story of a successful man and his racehorse after the devastating collapse of Wall Street in the 1930s.
Lynne Cheney, historian and wife of the vice president-
Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation by historian Richard Norton Smith. The remarkable profile of the first president known as "George W.
"Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography by historian William Lee Miller. Portrait of one of America's most honest, humble, and deeply spiritual presidents during some of the darkest and most challenging times in our history.
America: A Patriotic Primer by none other than Lynne Cheney. Mrs. Cheney is reading her new children's book on American history and patriotism (just published in May) to her granddaughters this summer, and traveling around the country reading portions of it to other groups of children as well. The book's genesis was the debacle over national history standards in the 1990s in which scholars working with President Clinton's National Endowment for the Humanities barely mentioned George Washington and deliberately left out people like Paul Revere, Thomas Edison, Daniel Webster, Robert E. Lee, and the Wright Brothers.
Karl Rove, chief White House political strategist-
Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnsonby presidential historian Robert Caro. The inside story of how one liberal Democrat (not Tom Daschle) ruled the U.S. Senate with an iron hand and left the GOP out in the cold. Hmmm.
Don Evans, secretary of commerce-
John Adams by historian David McCullough. The fascinating biography of the only other U.S. president (besides George H.W. Bush) to have a son who became president.
Like Mr. Rove, Secretary Evans is also reading Master of the Senate.
James Carville, Democratic strategist-
Barbarossa 1941 by military historian David Glantz and When Titans Clashed by David Glantz and Jonathan House. The first is a treatise on the invasion of Russia by Adolf Hitler during World War II. The second is about how the Red Army stopped Hitler's invasion of Russia. Is somebody getting ready to launch a massive political invasion, say of the GOP-controlled House?
Richard Armey, House majority leader-
In Harm's Way by magazine writer Doug Stanton. The true story of "the fate of the USS Indianapolis, the ship that carried the atomic bomb to the Enola Gay, and was sunk by a torpedo on the way back," Rep. Armey says. "Several hundred men didn't make it through the shark-infested waters and five days shipwrecked at sea-a powerful story." The majority leader-who leaves the House after this term-has survived two decades in the shark-infested waters of Washington. What is he planning to do next?
Michael Gerson, chief presidential speechwriter-
The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen. "An amazing, honest meditation on Rembrandt, God's unconditional love, and our challenge to accept it," Mr. Gerson says, intrigued as he is by the intersection between faith and culture.
Judy Keen, White House correspondent for USA Today-
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Yale professor Stephen L. Carter. The impressive literary legal thriller about the murder of a conservative black judge on track for the Supreme Court, and the son who tracks down his killer. Is someone getting ready to cover a messy battle over the next Supreme Court nomination?