Good, Evil, and My Friend Irwin
A literary luncheon with President Bush.
12:00 AM, Mar 14, 2007 • By MICHAEL NOVAK
There is today an intense battle between good and evil principles. It is correct to focus on good v. evil in this sense. But it would be incorrect to imagine that we ourselves are purely good, without flaw and fault in ourselves. We must not let our imperfection, however, detract from the nobility of the good we serve, and the horrible damage the triumph of an evil principle always wreaks.
All in all, the discussion ended up just exactly where I had hoped it would, without knowing it for sure, and without my trying to guide it there. My aim was to throw down the provocative propositions.
Pardon me for writing all this, just to clear up my theological conscience. I do think of God as, to quote from George Washington, "the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be." But no human being stands in God's sight perfectly good--exceptions made (in the Catholic view) for Jesus and his blessed Mother.
The one tid-bit I picked up prior to the lunch, and confirmed at the meeting, is that the president and Karl Rove are competing to see who can read the most books during 2007. For the first six weeks, the President was ahead. But by the beginning of March, Rove had surged ahead to twenty books, to the President's sixteen. Just to make sure that no one cheats, Rove also keeps track of the number of pages and the number of lines per page.
I would not have guessed that the President had read more books than most of us from January 1 to February 28. When I asked him about it in informal conversation, he said that the ones he was enjoying best "to relax his mind" were some of Travis McGee's novels. Those John D. MacDonald stories depict a knight errant who runs his own house-boat in Miami "engaged in the salvage business," and comes to the aid of needy persons (especially needy damsels) in distress. Travis McGee used to be one of my favorites, too, until when I was laid up for a week, I read six of them in a row, and over-dosed on them. For many years, though, they had given me considerable pleasure when I was tired and needed a book, on an airplane for instance.
Travis McGee: not such a bad choice for a President, especially one who thinks about good and evil, and often enough in a hard-boiled way.
Michael Novak is George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.