Will The President's Vacation Reading List Hamper U.S.-Israeli Relations?

August 23, 2011 5:10 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Over at National Review Online, conservative writer (and former Bush administration official) Tevi Troy has a piece up analyzing President Obama's vacation reading list. Consider before reading the rest of this post that National Review is considered by many to be one of the intellectual homes of the conservative movement.

The gist of Troy's piece is that the president's reading list is mainly comprised of fiction and this could send the message that the president is looking for a way to escape reality. "First, five of the six are novels, and the near-absence of nonfiction sends the wrong message for any president," he explains, "because it sets him up for the charge that he is out of touch with reality." Troy overanalyzes each and every title and even bemoans the fact that the Martha's Vineyard bookstore the president frequents doesn't carry intellectual gems such as Liberal Fascism, a book by fellow National Review writer Jonah Goldberg that links the 21st century American progressive movement to Nazism.

The whole piece is nitpicky and petty, but one paragraph stands apart as particularly puerile and illustrative of the logical leaps conservatives often make to attack any and everything associated with the president. Obama apparently purchased To The End of the Land, a widely acclaimed novel by Israeli writer David Grossman, which is about the journey of an Israeli mother who has lost her son in a military conflict. Troy doesn't critique the book, or complain that it's excessively long and would take too much of the president's important time. Instead, he writes:

The Grossman novel, which is about an Israeli woman who hikes to avoid hearing bad news about her soldier son, could create complications for Obama on the Israel front. Grossman is a well-known critic of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, so reading this novel will likely not assuage those concerned about Obama's views on the Middle East.

Troy either did not read Grossman's book or didn't understand it. Grossman's novel is not a political treatise and could have been written by any Israeli who lost a child in the Arab-Israeli conflict, as Grossman did during the 2006 war with Hezbollah. The book is about the "magical thinking" survivors of great loss, like Grossman himself, use to avoid confronting the reality of a loved one who will never return. Troy's attempt to politicize a rather mundane aspect of the president's life indicates immature partisanship and a horrifying insensitivity to Grossman's loss, as well as the losses of all whose kids marched off to war and never returned.