By their reading list ye shall know them
I am sure that those of you who follow politics have heard about Mitt Romney’s incredibly significant and newsworthy gaffe. When asked to name his favorite book, he cited Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard.
Cue a whole lot of snickering and mocking overanalysis by every blogger and pundit in the universe–all of whom no doubt curl up each night in their favorite cozy chair to read from a dog-eared copy of Crime and Punishment. A presidential candidate who likes a book about (snicker) aliens? A candidate who appreciates a nice pulp sci-fi story? God forbid a candidate respond to that question with a title that falls outside our vaguely-remembered high school Intro to World Literature syllabus. Thank goodness the pretentiati is on hand to assure us that anyone who would read, let alone enjoy, such a novel is, obviously, unfit for any sort of serious position in government. Can’t have our betters and those Europeans snickering at a U.S. President, can we?
Fortunately, Romney was quick to recant, assuring a worried public that his favorite novel is really Huckleberry Finn. Clearly, that’s an answer straight from his heart, and isn’t just a book title deemed by his political consultants as the Book Most Likely to Evoke a Positive Response from the Most Potential American Voters. (Let me guess: other Romney favorites include apple pie, the Bible, the soulful poetry of Maya Angelou, and freedom; and his heroes include Jesus, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.) Good save, Romney, good save. For a minute there I was worried that I’d spotted a glimmer of an actual interesting personality beneath the soulless political mask, an honest-to-goodness quirk that hadn’t yet been sanded down into inoffensiveness by focus groups and asinine political cliches.
I exaggerate a little; Romney has not completely renounced his enjoyment of pulpy sci-fi. And a few brave defenders are standing up to the literary snobs. But this shocking scandal has got me on the defensive, as I enjoyed Battlefield Earth as a teenager and did not grow up to be Scientologist or an illiterate. Whether or not you think that presidential candidates should be reading B-grade sci-fi, mark my words: Romney’s Battlefield Earth answer was the most honest thing you’re going to hear from any candidate for the next 18 months; and it was us who, at the first sign of deviation from the predicable norm, mocked him into repenting (so we could then mock him for flip-flopping). Xenu help us–it’s going to be a long and stupid campaign season.