The Washington Post editorial page has a couple of interesting, yet contrasting, commentaries about the intelligence of President Bush.
Charles Krauthammer says that Democrats stand befuddled that a dunce like George Bush could win the White House. Writes Krauthammer:
“Upon losing a game at the 1925 Baden-Baden tournament, Aaron Nimzowitsch, the great chess theoretician and a superb player, knocked the pieces off the board, jumped on the table and screamed, ‘How can I lose to this idiot?’
“Nimzowitsch may have lived decades ago in Denmark, but he had the soul of a modern American Democrat. After all, Democrats have been saying much the same — with similar body language — ever since the erudite Adlai Stevenson lost to the syntactically challenged Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. They said it again when they lost to that supposed simpleton Ronald Reagan. Twice, would you believe? With George W. Bush, they are at it again, and equally apoplectic.”
Former New York Times editor Howell Raines doesn’t quite ask the same question, but he does seem to envision a simpleton President who clumsily fumbles around the Oval Office.
“In some thoughts I wrote down in 1982 after two years of close observation of Reagan on the campaign trail and in the White House,” Raines says, “I characterized him as a ‘political primitive’ who valued ‘beliefs over knowledge’ based on verifiable facts. I also noted that Reagan had a ‘high tolerance for ambiguity’ as to the outcome of policies that proceeded from such rough-hewn thought.
“That strikes me as a different — less troubling — trait than what [Richard] Brookhiser sees as Bush’s refusal to recognize the mere existence of ambiguity. In general I’ve come to feel that what we have in Bush is a shadowy version of Reagan’s strengths and an exaggerated version of his intellectual weaknesses.”
We’ve been through these arguments before, of course. President Bush has been portrayed as an incompetent moron since his run against Al Gore in 2000 (and perhaps before that). It has always struck me as an odd tack. Does one really think that such a dumb individual could become a Yale graduate, Harvard MBA recipient, successful businessman, two-term governor, and President of the United States? Nobody’s that lucky.
So why the barrage of attacks against Bush’s intelligence?
Krauthammer suggests, “The hostility, resentment, envy and disdain, all superheated in Florida [after the 2000 election], were not permitted their natural discharge. Came Sept. 11 and a lid was forced down. How can you seek revenge for a stolen election by a nitwit usurper when all of a sudden we are at war and the people, bless them, are rallying around the flag and hailing the commander in chief? With Bush riding high in the polls, with flags flying from pickup trucks (many of the flags, according to Howard Dean, Confederate), the president was untouchable.
“The Democrats fell unnaturally silent. For two long, agonizing years, they had to stifle and suppress. It was the most serious case of repression since Freud’s Anna O. went limp. The forced deference nearly killed them. And then, providentially, they were saved. The clouds parted and bad news rained down like manna: WMDs, Abu Ghraib, Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill, Joe Wilson and, most important, continued fighting in Iraq.
“With the president stripped of his halo, his ratings went down. The spell was broken. He was finally, once again, human and vulnerable. With immense relief, the critics let loose.”
This is not a winning strategy for a campaign against the President. For all of the charges against Bush’s brain, little real evidence is ever proffered that suggests an intelligence deficiency. Not only that, but such criticism ignores the fact that leadership capability is based upon many more important indicators than IQ score. The accusation does, however, provide a nice escape hatch from dealing with the crucial issues upon which the commander-in-chief must make huge decisions. If the America people decide that John Kerry would be better at making those decisions, that is their right.
But neither candidate is a dummy.