Paying attention to Presidential reading lists

Americans are apparently interested in what the President reads.

A question: who exactly is interested? On the whole, many Americans read very little and these numbers grow among the younger generation. Tevi Troy argues, “We as Americans seem to like the notion that our presidents are reading more than just their daily briefing books — especially since, we assume, their busy schedules make it hard to find reading time.” So we expect more reading from our President than what many Americans are willing to do themselves?

Another question (perhaps too cynical): how much is the Presidential “reading list” just an opportunity to help shape an image?

Measuring Presidential popularity with merchandise

There are traditional ways to measure Presidential popularity: polls that in some way measure approval or disapproval. Here is another possible way: sales of Presidential merchandise.

I’ve always wondered why Presidents or other political officials allow such merchandizing using their figures and words in order to make money. Perhaps it is simply publicity (even if it is in opposition to them). Or perhaps they don’t want to appear to be the politicians who cracks down on such things. Or perhaps by running for or entering public office, there is a tacit understanding that they are now in the public eye and can be used for money-making purposes.

And what does it mean culturally to reduce any politician to a piece of merchandise?