Apr 102004

Next time you’re dilating about how stupid George Bush is — and I know this will be very, very soon — and some annoying right-wing interloper points out that Bush has a Harvard MBA, and you can’t be stupid and graduate Harvard Business School, all you have to do is smile and say:

Kwame Jackson has a Harvard MBA.

No charge.

  21 Responses to “Advice for the Left”

  1. Based purely on verbal ability and apparent mental agility, I think it’s clear that Kwame would kick W’s ass on an IQ test.

  2. I can’t honestly say how stupid George W Bush is – I guess those closer to him have a more accurate perspective. But I do know that any monkey (including myself, Harvard Class 1975) can bluff their way through an MBA. That said, though, I can proudly say my passing grades didnt come thanks to money from Daddy’s oil reserve revenues.

  3. Nice piece, but the ‘annoying’ is redundant.


  4. Aaron you know that a Harvard MBA is actually a negative indicator of intelligence — not a positive one at all. Bush may be dumb, but Kerry is obviously MUCH, MUCH dumber. This is the real trouble for the Dems this time: their media thralls have to work much, much harder than they did for Clinton to diguise this fact.

  5. Jim, you can’t be serious. At least Kerry is capable of speaking in complete sentences, and shows the capacity for having a clue what’s going on around him in the White House. At this late date, anyone who would even consider arguing that Bush is smarter than Kerry is, to my mind, hopelessly partisan. The view cannot be based on reality — i.e., actual public utterances in a live setting.

  6. Michael, you are just silly. Utterances are not "reality" or the standard for judging intelligence. Was Niels Bohr intelligent? I think pretty universally people would answer yes. Yet Bohr was nearly incomprehensible, a noted word fumbler.

    If talking in complete sentences was the standard for intelligence, then why did liberals think Reagan so stupid? He was afterall the great communicator. I guess they didn’t like the content.

  7. No, Bill, it is you who are being willfully foolish in apparently defending the President’s intelligence in defiance of all discernable reality. I never said that "talking in complete sentences" was the ONLY basis for intelligence; watching you seize upon the most trivial possible retort to my post and crow like you’ve actually noted something of value only underscores my belief about those who still defend this president.

    When I judge a president’s intelligence, I judge what he says in public (when not reading from a teleprompter), and the weay his administration functions, and everything there is to read about the man and his life, and what those around him say about him, and so on. In the case of Bush, I can also refer to the 30 minutes I spent speaking with him in person during the ’00 campaign. On all counts, the man is clearly not particularly intelligent. You want me to climb off my partisan horse? Fine: Bush isn’t a complete moron. I’d say he’s a guy of average intelligence, at best, with a considerable politician’s gift for connecting with an audience and with individuals and for projecting resolve and leadership qualities. These are important traits in a politicians, traits that Bush shares with Clinton and Reagan, and which Bush and Elder and Al Gore, to name two recent contenders, lacked.

    On the matter of intelligence, however, no serious observor can read the transcripts of the President’s extemporaneous exchanges with reporters (or in any other setting available for public review) and argue that this is a man who shows any evidence of high intelligence. If language can give us a clue as to someone’s innate level of cognitive processing power (as it almost always can, with the exception of obvious outliers like Bohr), than language tells us that this is a man with a scarily low intellect, considering his job. When asked almost anything, this President doesn’t respond with facts, arguments, or fresh thought of any kind; he falls back on the 20 talking points that his staff have drilled into him. Forget making cogent, reasoned argument — he is barely able to generate complete thoughts. Shall I go back to his recent press conference (or worse, his embarrassing Meet the Press appearance) and reproduce Q&A for you? The transcripts reminded me uncannily of the interview I did with Bush in ’00 on technology issues. I stood there with my microcassette recorder, listening to him blather at a high school level about the benefits of computer technology, and I really just couldn’t believe my ears. I understand that measuring intelligence is difficult; that a lot of different abilities go into producing what we think of as intelligence; and that trying to use any isolated variable — like speaking ability — as a marker is somewhat dubious. But I have done interviews with hundreds of smart people over the years. I know the difference between speaking to a mind like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or any of hundreds of engineers, executives and what-have-you, whose responses to my questions are rich and winding and thought out (if not always correct). And let me tell you, I have rarely ever spoken with someone less capable of generating actual ideas bolstered by argument than George W. Bush. It was like talking to the dumb party boy at a college frat. It was a scary experience, and it turned me quite strongly against him from the start, and the results this administration have achieved — i.e., botching practically everything they set out to do, most notably the just war they prosecuted in Iraq, then turned into the needless unfolding disaster we’re witnessing today — speaks to me of a White House that is rotting from the head down. He is no kind of leader, and a lot of people are picking up on that, including a hell of a lot of conservatives and Republicans, as evidenced by an approval rating –disastrously, under 50% — which historically indicates a failed incumbent who is about to be turned out on his sorry ass.

  8. Michael, after reviewing your earlier post I agree with you –you gave two criteria for judging intelligence. The first was proper placement of nouns and verbs, but the second was just loopy, so I forgot to mention it. John Kerry has no idea what is really going on at the White House because HE IS NOT THE PRESIDENT.

    Moreover, I do not care who is brighter. Surprisingly, the intellect of the president is way down on the list of attributes that would cause me to vote for or against him. And I practically worship intellect. I have pictures of Von Neumann and John Bell over my desk.

    Intellect is kind of like an engine
    in a vehicle. The more powerful, the faster you go or the more you can haul. Too much power and you self destruct (read a history of the Cunard lines — the engines in their ships were too powerful leading to ruptured wooden hulls). But I am much more interested in where we go than in speed.

    The future being inherently unknowable to BOTH the smart and dumb does not confer great advantage to the intelligent.

    I was thinking of putting together a list of stupid things said and done by bright people. Here are two examples that come to mind:

    "Dear Internal Revenue Service; As the income tax was approved in a questionable manner it is unconstitutional and, as such, will not be paying my income taxes…" (Numerous smart asses)


    "I have done the calculations and am not sanguine about the future of the human race. It seems the sun will burn out of coal within the next 100 years…" (loosely on Thomas Huxley)

    On the other hand some of the most profound things I have heard were from the uneducated (I don’t know if they were dumb):

    "Where there is no freedom, there is no money…" (Cuban cab driver in NYC)


    "What do I think of Monica Lewinsky? I think she taught a billion Chinese people that there really is free speech in America. If you can talk about that, you can talk about anything." (Chinese restaurant worker)

  9. Fair enough — if you want to argue that presidential intelligence is overrated (a questionable thesis, given the job description, but at least an amusing one), fine. Without question there have been smart failed presidents and successful dumb ones. The only place I draw the line is the argument that W. Bush is, by any reasonable definition of intelligence, intelligent. That shall not pass. 😉


  10. Oh, one other point: if one believes in "emotional intelligence," I think it’s pretty clear that W. has that in spades. When I met him, even as I was thinking he was a dumbass, on some primal level I was thinking he was a nice dumbass. He made me like him on a gut level, in a way that one suspects John Kerry does not. That’s a big advantage for a politician, and a not-unimportant executive skill in its own right.

    Unfortunately, however, he is still a dumbass. I don’t even respect his intellect enough to want to see him become baseball commissioner. Would you trust him with our beloved sport, Bill?


  11. Actually Michael, that last is an interesting question. Before the 2000 election I decided to track the quality of the prospects coming out of the Texas minor league system. I figured that the quality of an owner could be determined by the quality of the infrastructure and scouting system he creates. If Texas produced better prospects after W. became owner it would be one index of his executive ability. If it produced worse prospects, I would worry.

    I think you will find W. did an ok job at picking up future hitting stars, and a much better job than his predecessor. Pitching prospects were few and far between for both.

  12. George Bush gets a lot of support, sympathy, and votes from people who dislike it when intellectuals sneer at him. He is not going to get any votes from the vast majority of the intelligentsia, even if he single-handedly translates Etruscan and makes major advances in string theory. Why should he show off how smart he is, to please you or anyone else?

  13. (Sorry, I should have made it clear that my last comment was to Michael Krantz.)

  14. Like ma ole Pappy always used to say: "Smart is as smart does."

  15. Yes, Jim, "smart is as smart does." And if anyone can point to any aspect of the Bush presidency and show me a success, I’ll reconsider my position. Since this is a more or less libertarian blog, I look forward to hearing someone explain to me how a president who has drastically increased public spending, exploded the deficit, torched free trade negotiations, "protected" every politically convenient industry he could find, callously infringing any number of individual civil rights, and (oh yeah, while I’m at) completely botched the "war on terror" through diplomatic and strategic incompetence, is supposed to be considered successful by this readership.

    And Floyd: I don’t need or want Bush to "show off" how smart he is. I want him to demonstrate it, even just once, by leading our nation effectively. Unfortunately for all of us, he hasn’t.

  16. Jim,

    Shockingly, I am a Christian on this point: "By my fruits ye shall know me"

  17. Not that I want to come down too hard on any Harvard grads here, but I have to say that a Harvard degree ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, reallyHarvard is a tough school to get into unless you’re exceptionally talented or exceptionally connected. Since George W. Bush is from one of New England’s most prominent political families, I’d say he falls into the exceptionally connected class. That doesn’t necessarily make him untalented, either, but it does effectively negate the relevance of Harvard when it comes to measuring the man’s abilities and gifts.

    Bush Junior certainly has charisma, I’ll give you that. But as a leader? Well… he’s shown he can be pretty well led around by the throwbacks from the last two Republican administrations that he’s surrounded himself withnot to mention Karl Rove.

    No president who’s ever gotten into office after so narrow a vote count has ever won another term. The last president who won the Electoral College by challenging the actual vote count was Rutherford Hayes, but he didn’t seek relection. Benjamin Harrison was elected by the Electoral College though lost the popular vote, as was John Quincy Adams. Historical precedent is against Bush. It’s still too early to call the 2004 election, but suffice it to say, it’s going to be a struggle for Bush. Considering that John Kerry is a savvy politician with plenty of campaign experience under his beltand who’s a good public speaker, to bootJunior’s in for a fight, once this thing really heats up.

  18. Mr. Poliwko:

    "The last president who won the Electoral College by challenging the actual vote count…"

    I know of NO president that won anything by challenging the vote count. And it should be noted that Mr. Bush did not challenge any vote count either. Mr. Gore did that.

  19. Mr. Kaplan,

    Mr. Gore did not so much challenge the vote count as he did insist that Florida law be followed by a recount, since the "margin of victory" was so close. Inevitably this discussion will lead to legal strategies, but that’s hardly relevant: the Florida constitution mandates a vote count in such situations, yet the Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, who was also the Bush 2000 chairwoman for the state of Florida, decided to oppose the recount of all 67 counties. Strictly speaking, I suppose you’re right: Bush challenged the recount, not the original count, but that’s a mere technicality. The fact remains that the American democratic process was derailed.

    As to an election decided by vote count challenges: this was the election of 1876, when New York Governor Samuel Tilden apparently beat Ohio Governor Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes challenged the vote counts in four statesSouth Carolina, Louisiana, Oregon and Floridawhere the vote was close and opened up a huge mess not unlike that which haunted the 2000 election. There were recounts and court challenges galore, and the winner was not decided until March 2, 1877two days before Inauguration Day. This made Mr. Hayes the second president to ascend to the highest office in the United States without winning a plurality of the popular and electoral vote, having lost the popular vote by more than 200,000but, after the shitstorm cleard, took the electoral college by one vote.

    The situation in 1876 was so shady even before the votes were cast that we’ll never know for sure who won that yearthough it’s unlikely that the electoral vote was off by 200,000. Similarly, with all the obstruction surrounding the 2000 recount, we’ll never know who actually won that time, eitherunless you want to count the so-called "overvotes" (you know, the ballots on which someone punched out a chad and wrote in the candidate’s name. If you throw in those who were turned away at the polls for whatever reasons (voters who were predominantly Democratic,) well… it’s pretty clear whom the majority of Florida voters wanted for president.

    Sorry if I got carried away here. It’s a subject that’s rather dear to me, and once I stop, it’s hard to stop myself. Carry on, folks.

  20. Drat… I meant, "It’s unlikely that the popular vote was off by 200,000," not the electoral vote. But you probably figured that out, just like in my last paragraph I meant to say, "…once I start, it’s hard to stop myself…" Lord, I should probably just stop typing before I hurt myself…

  21. David:

    I’m new here and pretty ignorant, too. And I may throw around a "fact" or two without scholarly citation on which to hang it. But cut me a little slack just this once.

    I live near Philly. Gore won the city by an overwhelming margin.
    Several times the 200,000 votes to which you refer. As Philly goes, so goes the state. The thing is, the Gore margin in the city was close to the entire population–including kids. Didn’t even seem to raise eyebrows. Stuff like that doesn’t make any waves at all.

    It’s a similar, though different situation in virtually every city of size across the country. The 19th-century vote-rigging ploys
    are simply beyond the capacity of ordinary measures to keep up with. You and I may be on the opposite sides of a political divide but just ask yourself if you really think that the voter-registration efforts of the Ds to turn out every wino, derelict, welfare recipient, fearful senescent, and the enormous host of felons they’ve succeeded in re-enfranchising are really the electorate that you’d have standing with you to determine important courses in the nation’s future.

    Think back about all the allegations of voter intimidation slung about during and in the aftermath of the Florida voting.
    Yet, when testimony of such goings-on was invited in Congress, the only sworn statement that anyone made was that they saw some police looking at them a few blocks from the polling place–to which they had no trouble in getting to and casting their ballots. Lame.

    Think back to the very sharp practice intended to disqualify the (likely-R) absentee ballots of servicemen on the technicality that some R "ops" came in and
    added some required info to the outside of envelopes–info that the voters couldn’t have known belonged there.

    Think back to the Missouri judge ordering the continuation of polling hours in one (or more) of the major, D-dominated cities for no reason whatever of contingency–just to allow the amassing of sufficient votes to squelch the already-in and counted of the more rural parts of the state.

    But, if you really want to get a true–that is, visible, undistorted encapsulation of the D party in its glory–a true "showing of its colors" there is nothing quite like the proceedings ON TV, ferchrissakes, in the Leon County Courthouse. I think it was Judge Sauls was the guy’s name. Smeared around the country as a "hick," a "redneck," and a "racist." Too bad the reporters hadn’t found out (or bothered to tell if they had) that the judge had had a black lady
    as a "mammy" in childhood, as a household helper throughout his life, and, in her old age and disability, had been waiting on her, including cooking, washing, etc., and feeding–for something like the past 20 years.

    But that wasn’t all–by a long shot. The trial developed into a series of setbacks for the Bush team. Their experts weren’t up to the Gore experts, especially the lawyer, David Boise and a sharp young doctoral statistician from Yale.

    The Bush team was able to demonstrate that Boise had twice misrepresented certain elections and election results to the judge–both of which had presumed precedential merit.
    For one, when the lie was discovered, he offered only the excuse that the information had come from a "sleepy" judge in another state. No defense of the other. The statistician was exposed as having sworn to the personal preparation of a document faithfully recording his expert findings. But then, it was shown that not only had he not seen the ballot whose design he was testifying on–but that the document presented in court–his sworn affadvit–was a not-so-clever fraud, in which the relevant conclusion had been excised. The guy slunk off the stand fully looking as though he expected to have cuffs slapped on him.

    Are these the kind of people with whom you’d associate in any way–let lone support for the governance of the country?

    I’m 68 years old–can remember presidents and also-rans back to FDR, though I never voted before Bush I. Some fairly low characters among ’em, on both sides. Or shall we just use the term "flawed" to refer to the likes
    of Nixon, Johnson, and Clinton?
    But, in all of those men (and the also-rans as well), I cannot think of a single one I wouldn’t allow as had tried to do the best for this nation. Not a single one do I imagine had in mind anything but the best for his country, even the lying, cheating, scheming, malefactor Clinton passes that test.

    But not John Kerry. Look at the 30+-year record of self-serving, essentially anti-American prevarication, history-falsifying deliberate aggrandizing effort.
    Much of it is only now being exposed. They say he’s running neck-and-neck with GW. I certainly hope not. I have not the slightest desire to minimize the intelligence of John Kerry. As a matter of fact, the smarter he is, the worse he’d likely be for the U.S. Bush may be just a fairly likable, reg’lar guy–maybe no brighter than the fellow next door. I live in an essentially industrial-next-to-farming area of NJ, maybe 5000 tops. I’d sooner see almost any one of them as president in preference
    to John Kerry–any randomly-chosen adult would be more suitable and trustworthy. How can it possibly be that you (and the rest of the nearly 50% of the population supposedly favoring the guy) can’t see the same as I do?

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