From Cicero to Snooki, the cultural influences on our American presidents are powerful and plentiful. Thomas Jefferson famously said "I cannot live without books," and his library backed up the claim, later becoming the backbone of the new Library of Congress. Jimmy Carter watched hundreds of movies in his White House, while Ronald Reagan starred in a few in his own time. Lincoln was a theater-goer, while Obama kicked back at home to a few ...
From Cicero to Snooki, the cultural influences on our American presidents are powerful and plentiful. Thomas Jefferson famously said "I cannot live without books," and his library backed up the claim, later becoming the backbone of the new Library of Congress. Jimmy Carter watched hundreds of movies in his White House, while Ronald Reagan starred in a few in his own time. Lincoln was a theater-goer, while Obama kicked back at home to a few episodes of HBO's "The Wire."
America is a country built by thinkers on a foundation of ideas. Alongside classic works of philosophy and ethics, however, our presidents have been influenced by the books, movies, TV shows, viral videos, and social media sensations of their day. In Pop Culture and the American Presidents: From Pamphlets to Podcasts, presidential scholar and former White House aide Tevi Troy combines research with witty observation to tell the story of how our presidents have been shaped by popular culture.
In 2010, Obama delivered a joke about Jersey Shore reality star Snooki, but later admitted on The View that he didn’t know who she was; the typically pop culture–literate POTUS’s gaffe belied the White House’s struggle to maintain the dignity of the high office while simultaneously participating with the public in the consumption of culture. Troy (Intellectuals and the American Presidency), a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute think tank, admiringly details the exemplary reading habits of the nation’s early presidents before tracking the slow but steady sidelining of the pastime. Teddy Roosevelt (who once declared, “Reading with me is a disease”) would be “the last reading president,” after which radio, music, film, TV, and the Internet fragmented the media landscape and the attentions of the American public—and the president. Troy’s casual history comes in easily digestible bites, and though his loyalty to former boss George W. Bush (under whom he served as the deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services) clouds his analysis of the current and previous president, this is nevertheless an informative look at how these American leaders embraced and transformed popular culture and the ever-evolving office of the presidency. Agent: Gene Brissie, James Peter Associates. (Sept.)
From reading Cicero to watching I Love Lucy, a history of American presidents' interactions with popular culture. Can a president show that he has the gravitas to govern the nation and still reveal that he knows who Snooki is? The question animates this fresh view of presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama and their efforts to find the right distance for the leader of a republic to keep between himself and the people. Against the rise of American popular culture over the past 200 years, Hudson Institute senior fellow Troy (Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, or Technicians?, 2002) shows how presidents' cultural pursuits have shaped them and the nation. The pursuits are many: Jefferson read the classics and philosophical works ("From candlelight to early bedtime I read"), as did John Adams, in an era when Common Sense sold as briskly as Peyton Place; Andrew Jackson thrilled audiences on his visits to the theater; Franklin Roosevelt mastered the radio; and Reagan made expert use of TV, which he also enjoyed viewing for consolation. While Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln worked hard to balance book smarts and popular appeal, presidents had other cultural distractions to deal with in ensuing years, which brought the Montgomery Ward catalog, the phonograph, radio, TV (Clinton was a "savvy manipulator," George W. Bush rarely watched), and the Internet. Troy shows how these leaders used and projected their own images through emerging media, from Nixon sizing up the competition on TV to Obama's preference for dark and edgy TV shows like The Wire. He wonders how the U.S. will continue to produce good leaders in a culture of the outrageous and the vulgar. Light, entertaining and informative.
Tevi Troy is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, a Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute, and a writer and consultant on health care and domestic policy. He is a frequent television and radio analyst, and has appeared on Fox News, Fox Business, Al Jazeera English, and the Jim Lehrer Show, among other outlets. Dr. Troy's many other affiliations include serving as a member of the publication committee of National Affairs, a member of the Board of Fellows of the Jewish Policy Center, a Visiting Scholar at the School of Policy and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, a member of the International Advisory Council for APCO Worldwide, and a regular contributor to National Review Online.
Dr. Troy has extensive Captiol Hill and White House experience, having served in multiple high-level positions, culminating in his service as Deputy Assistant and Acting Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, where he ran the Domestic Policy Council and was the White House's lead adviser on health care, labor, education, transportation, immigration, crime, veterans and welfare under the George W. Bush administration. At the White House, Dr. Troy specialized in crisis management, creating intra-governmental consensus, and all aspects of policy development. He also spearheaded the White House's American Competitiveness Initiative, featured in the 2007 State of the Union Address.
Dr. Troy is the author of Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, or Technicians, and has written for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Forbes, the New Republic, Commentary, Reason, Investor's Business Daily, National Review, the Weekly Standard, and other publications. Dr. Troy lives in Maryland with his wife and four children.