December 7, 2011
Mexican presidential hopeful not exactly a book guy …
by Valerie Merians
In a story reminiscent of George W. Bush‘s mental pyrotechnics, Enrique Peña Nieto, the front-runner in Mexico’s Presidential race “stumbled in a high-profile way at a world-class book festival over the weekend, when, for several minutes, he appeared unable to correctly name a book that’s influenced his life, besides the Bible,” according to this story in the Los Angeles Times.
“He also confused the names of two well-known Mexican authors, Enrique Krauze and Carlos Fuentes, in a four-minute episode that ended with the candidate red-faced, saying, ‘The truth is, when I read a book I often don’t fully register the titles,’” the Times went on to say.
Peña Nieto was appearing at the Guadalajara International Book Fair, a prestigious cultural event that is billed as the largest literary festival in Latin America. The fall-out has been intense, with the candidate trying to defend himself on Twitter.
“The episode has sparked a flurry of reaction on social-networking sites, including satirical ‘trending topics’ on Twitter, such as #LibreríaPeñaNieto, or ‘Peña Nieto’s Bookstore.’ Users are inventing the titles of books the candidate has “read” full of political mocking and double or triple meaning,” according to the Times.
Ironically, the candidate was at the book fair to promote his own election-season book, Mexico, the Great Hope. According to the Times report:
Releasing books at the start of the political season is a standard practice for presidential candidates in Mexico, and the practice attracts little scrutiny. On Saturday, Peña Nieto was responding to a reporter who asked him to name three books that have marked his life. The candidate stammered and smiled nervously as he confused the author of a title he could name, the novel The Eagle’s Chair, saying it was by historian Krauze. It was written by Fuentes, perhaps Mexico’s most noteworthy living novelist.
“There’s another book by him [Krauze] that I want to remember the name, about caudillos, but I don’t remember the exact title,” Peña Nieto said.
Peña Nieto’s wife, actress Angelica Rivera, sat in the front row and “appeared to suffer more than her husband,” according to one local report. Giggles and then laughter can be heard in this amateur video. [see below]
Having barely survived our own non-book-guy president, author of the eminently forgettable Decision Points, we can only say to our southerly brothers and sisters, “Look out! Don’t do it!”
PS: For a wonderful walk down memory lane, please see one of the many, many Moby Lives posts on George W. Bush’s Decision Points, as well as the brilliant alternative books covers that were suggested for it.
Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.