10.08.2004

It raises some interesting questions, espcially since Carter, Clinton, and Wilson are supposed to be among the smartest presidents, and each of them were reviled by large portions of the population during and after their presidencies.

I think I was saying at the lunch I went to -- someone had mentioned stem cell research and the Knights of Columbus member (my cubicle neighbor) launched into a right to life tirade (there was a prayer meeting this am) (but he plays classical music that makes the day so much better) -- so I changed the subject to intelligence of the president

after talking about this summer and the Reagan sainthood, Rushmore, etc. (Reagan enabled the vertical integration of the entertainment industry I'm recently participating in as a peon by eliminating the antitrust consent decrees blocking mergers -- these were put in place in the 40s) which was very local to us

I wondered aloud if -- I don't know -- is it that the states rights / pseudo libertarian stance of "simple government" that the Republican party uses in its rhetoric PLUS having a figurehead president like Reagan or W appeals to the longing that *everyone has* for a government that is responsible, accountable to the populace, possible for an ordinary person to understand / comprehend? Because certainly, and no one who has ever served in government I think would seriously argue -- that's not what a modern government of a country IS --

it would seem to me that even an ordinary CEO -- and so many of them are "big picture" "charismatic" "vision guys" -- Cheney, dare we say Ken Ley, etc. -- is hard pressed to be accountable for a company to shareholders and employees

can you read the impeachment ordeal as a way to try to demonstrate in a way everyone can understand that government is now opaque? a way in which people who were never really scandalized by the Bushes and S&Ls and the Bushes and oil cos., as both & BCCC, as the CIA and... could more readily understand that government is opaque? I for one would prefer to read it that way than to read it as mere scandal mongering, because I would prefer to think that Karl Rove isn't running the country, and that the current divisions in the country are more rhetorical than heart-felt -- that there are "good conservatives" and "good liberals"

XO
-----Original Message-----
Los Angeles TimesEDITORIALIs He a Dope? October 7, 2004Although neither group likes to say so, some Americans whosupport President Bush and many who don't support himhave concluded over four years that he may not be verybright. This suspicion was not allayed by Bush's answers inthe first presidential debate a week ago.Even Bush's most engaged critics shy away from publiclychallenging his intelligence for many reasons, most of themgood. To raise the issue seems snooty and elitist. This is animage no American wants because seeming snooty is evenworse than seeming stupid. Just ask Bush's opponent, Sen.John Kerry. Furthermore, the concept of brainpower or IQ as asingle, measurable trait is generally, though not universally,rejected by scientists. And the obsession with IQ has beenresponsible for all sorts of political mischief.Then there is Ronald Reagan. We know now that he had incipient Alzheimer's for at least part of his presidency. Manyof his supporters at the time and even more of hisretrospective admirers acknowledge that he was a few jellybeans short of a jar. But he was a spectacularly successfulpolitician anyway, and many believe he was more than that:one of America's greatest leaders.The smartest candidate is not necessarily the best candidate.The candidate's belief system and character matter more. Similarly, the smartest surgeon is not necessarily the bestsurgeon. But if all you knew about two surgeons was that onewas smarter than the other, there's not much question whichone you'd pick for your operation.Actually, we would not frame the question as one of abstractbrainpower, a dubious concept. You don't go throughAmerica's top schools, serve as governor of a major state and occupy the presidency with even mixed results if you're notreasonably smart, no matter how thoroughly your way iseased by others.The issue might better be described as one of mentallaziness.Does this man think through his beliefs before they hardeninto unwavering principles? Is he open to countervailingevidence? Does he test his beliefs against new evidence and outside argument? Does his understanding of a subject go anydeeper than the minimum amount needed for public display?Is he intellectually curious? Does he try to reconcile hisbeliefs on one subject with his beliefs on another?It's bad if a president is incapable of the abstract thought necessary for these mental exercises. If he is capable and isn'teven trying, that's worse. It becomes a question of character.When a president sends thousands of young Americans to killand die halfway around the world, thinking about it as hardand as honestly as possible is the least he can do.Bush's Iraq policy is full of contradictions, often rehearsed onthis page and elsewhere. But so is Kerry's. It isn't routinepolitical mendacity that makes many people - many morethan will admit it - wonder about Bush's mental engagement.It is a combination of things: his stumbling inarticulateness,the efforts his advisors make to protect him from unscriptedexposure, his extreme reluctance to rethink anything.Does it matter? Yes, it matters. There are those who say thatReagan's mental laziness was actually a plus. It prevented alot of competing signals from causing static on the lines, andkept his principles clear. We do not buy that. We state boldlythat thinking hard is a good thing, not a bad thing, even in apresident. If that sounds snooty, so be it. And maybe GeorgeW. Bush will reassure us by his performance Friday night thathe is thinking as hard as he should about the issues thepresident will face in the next four years. Especially the issuesresulting from his own failure to think hard during the lastfour.