Is George W. Bush stupid?

musicabonita_2000 asked this question on 11/9/2000:

I would like all republicans to give me a good reason to like Bush. I really am open minded to this even tho i'm generally a democrat or a liberal. It just seems that evertime that i hear a reason to vote for Bush is because of something that Clinton has done or something else that has nothing to do with Bush's capability as a president. You always say he hasn't served in an dishonest adminstration. But is it not possible that he could in the future? Or is it possible that he already has served in a dishonest adminstration and yet the democrats just havent tried to pry into his life the way Republicans did to Clinton.Blaming Gore for the stupid things Clinton has done seems to have no justification. I mean do you guys really think that Bush's plans make sense and that they will actually work or do you just vote for him because you hate Al Gore, even tho, to me and lots of other people, he's clearly smarter and more capable of running this country? It's funny to me that Bush's DUI charges are no big deal to most of you and it has nothing to do with his character yet i've yet to hear anything against gore that has been proven (him inventing the internet,etc) and yet his credibility is shot. I dont even think he said any of these things. I think he said something a bit similar to these so called lies and its gotten blown out of proportion. And even if he did say these things what in the world does this have to do with his effectiveness as a president? To me, this has as much to do with the presidency as Bush lieing and saying he was in the military,or the dui. And can you honestly say that if it had been al gore who had dui charges, that you would have been so forgiving? Would it have mattered then if Gore had been in the exact same situation? I've sincerely been looking for answers to this questions. Prove to me his godlyness, his honorableness, his integrity and all these qualities that i keep hearing that he has and yet to have seen. Please no more answers that make no sense like i've been getting for a while now. I've yet to hear any republican to make any sense on these questions. Since you all are experts i'm hoping to get an intellegent answer for one. You never know. YOu could change my mind. Thanks for reading


JesseGordon gave this response on 11/9/2000:

I voted third-party all around in this election, and I call myself a liberal-leaning libertarian. I'll consider myself qualified to answer because I run a non-partisan web site (

I've been thinking since the primaries were decided that the electoral process worked pretty well this year. Bush is clearly more qualified than McCain (although I voted for McCain in the primaries, and hope to see him again in the future; but I do think he needs to practice moderation more before he's electable). And Gore is clearly more qualified than Bradley (although I hope to see Bradley in a future race too).

Bush has been particularly effective in governing with a Democratic legislature in Texas. He indeed made this point quite often in the campaign, and it seems to me his strongest qualification for the presidency -- the ability to achieve a bipartisan consensus, which implies getting things done. While it may not matter this year (assuming Bush is elected), the tradition of mid-term elections is that the president's party loses a few seats in Congress. With the tight balance, it's likely Bush would have a Democrat Senate, and maybe House too, in 2002.

Bush is also unafraid to take on tough issues. Social Security in particular has been called "the third rail" of politics -- touch it and you die -- for decades. Bush says things like "I'll touch the third rail because that's the only way to fix it." It was risky -- and if he loses, that stance will be blamed, since it was a key issue in Florida. But he took it on, and he has changed the opinion of millions of Americans -- retirement privatization is now a popular opinion.
He's done the same with school vouchers -- that has become a mainstream issue at the federal level. Prior to this election, it was a out-in-the-wings idea in a few states.
Even if Bush ultimately loses (which I don't think he will), he will have achieved a major shift in American opinion on those two issues. If he takes office, he will presumably do the same on other tough issues.

Bush also follows strongly in the tradition of Ronald Reagan in being a leader who outlines his ideas, and then delegates the power to implement those ideas without interfering with the details. Some people considered that a negative aspect of Reagan (like in Iran-Contra), but it certainly was an important characteristic of his, and made him an effective leader. I think Bush shares that. His father did not -- he was much more detail-oriented, and I think that was the main reason he was not as effective as Reagan.

Bush also has the ability to capture the crowd with his confidence and vision. I don't think he did this very often during the campaign, but when he did, it was very powerful. I saw this most clearly in his convention speech, when he stared into the camera with fire in his eyes at each repeat of the phrase "They have not led. We will." I was moved, even though I did not at that point nor at any time since intend to vote for Bush. But I was certain at that moment that the man was unbeatable for the presidency, and that he would be a good president.

He exhibited that same "spark" a few times during the debates, on issues he was confident about. I think the confidence that's behind his ability will come naturally if he becomes president, since power provides confidence. So we'll see a lot more of that spark if he takes office, and I think he'll be a fine leader.

musicabonita_2000 asked this follow-up question on 11/11/2000:

that was probably the most intellegent answer i've ever received but your not a republican so i'm not sure it counts lol. It was good. YOu actually made sense (tho you didnt answer all of my questions but oh well). Tho his issues arent what i believe in, if more people put it the way you did then I wouldnt think they were so ignorant. Yet i talked to two more republicans last night and the reason they would vote for bush "because of what clinton did". Can you not understand my frustration with these people. They seem to blame everything on other people and they have not done anything wrong untl they get caught in a lie and all of a sudden they are sorry for what they have done. Thanks for you answer. I wish i could get an answer like this from a Republican but oh well, it may never happen :)


musicabonita_2000 rated this answer:

JesseGordon gave this response on 11/11/2000:

Alright, I'll try to address your other questions too, but I asumed some of them were rhetorical.

Yes, if it had been Gore who had been caught in a DUI offense, I'm sure it would have hurt him severely and cost him any chance he has in the election. And no, it didn't hurt Bush much (although in an election this tight, hurting just a little bit can be enough!) But I think that's because Bush handled it well (with honesty) and Gore would have nbeen perceived as having covered it up (more on perceptins below).

In terms of Bush's issues, yes, I agree that some of them will help the country. As I've said above, I'm not a Bush supporter, but I certainly thinnk his voucher plan is better than Gore's idea to "close failing schools and re-open them with a new principal." Bush's social security plan was good enough to force Gore to make a similar plan. And his tax cut plan, which focuses on "getting the money out of Washington while the getting is good" makes a lot of sense too (although I do prefer Gore's plan on that, but Gore's plan was a response to Bush's too).

In terms of why these things stick to Gore and not to Bush, that's all about perception. Gore is perceived as the legalistic type, who'll wangle his way out of a straight answer. Anything he says to reinforce that stereotype gets reported (and distorted) in full, such as the Internet claim, the Love Story claim, the Love Canal claim, etc. He DOES exaggerate more than he needs to, and that character flaw has appropriately been magnified by the press. But Gore is not perceived as dumb, so if he flubs his words, or mis-states soemthing, the press lets it go.

Bush IS perceived as dumb, so anything that reinforces that stereotype gets magnified by the press. From "subliminable" to "non-federal Social Security", Bush will be portrayed forever as a word mangler and a concept mangler, and the press will seek out things that reinforce that. And the truth is, Bush probably is NOT as smart as Gore -- but so what? There's no IQ test for the presidency, and Reagan did pretty well with a pretty low IQ, while Carter did pretty badly with a pretty high IQ.

With regards to Republicanism, you may have a hard time finding Republicans who'll defend Bush well NOT because he's hard to defend, but because Republicanism is getting weaker, as parties themselves weaken. More people call themselves Independents (as I do) these days than call themselves either Republicans OR Democrats. I've proudly voted for Republicans (William Weld, John McCain, John Anderson) and I've proudly voted for Democrats (Ted Kennedy, Joe Kennedy, Bill Clinton). The vast middle ground of voters who don't unquestioningly stick to one party or the other -- that's where elections are won and lost, and therefore those are the perceptions and opinions that count.

musicabonita_2000 asked this follow-up question on 11/11/2000:

I was under the impression that Reagan wasnt a good president but i really dont know much about him.Anyways, I was with you until you said so what about Bush not being too smart. I dont care about his I dont know how smart that means you are. But i do think that your intellegence matters in how effective you are as a president. How can it not? Perhaps the i.q. test reagan and carter took didnt rate him on their political knowledge and maybe that's why Reagan could get a low score and be a good president and carter could have a high score and not do so well as president.I've never taken a i.q test but no matter what the outcome was I wouldnt think of myself as any less intellegent than i do now.And I'm sure that Bush is smarter in some matters than Gore is but i dont think that's the case in this matter.

JesseGordon gave this response on 11/11/2000:

Yes, of course, there are many areas of intelligence, and of corse, every president would score highly on some of them. If you measured something like "ability to read people" as a form of intelligence, Clinton wuold probably come in first of all presidents in this century, followed closely by Reagan, with Al Gore very distantly behind both of them as well as behing Bush. But in terms of academic intelligence, or knowledge of public policy and the ability to consider options, Bush (and Reagan) just aren't as smart as Gore (and Clinton and Carter).

But no, I don't think intelligence matters. On a political quiz I wrote for this election for PBS (see "CandidateMatch" at, we considered a series of criteria to measure the personality of the candidates. We thought about havnig "intelligence" as a criterion, and rejected it as not sufficiently miportant in a president to determine people's votes or to determine presidential ability (see "rejected concepts" at

As to why I consider Reagan a good president, well, he achieved what he set out to achieve.

1) His purpose upon election was to end the "American malaise" as Pres. Carter described it, and replace it with "Morning in America." He certainly did that -- the 1980s were an optimistic period, and I think if Carter won the 1980s would not have been.

2) His policy goals included rebuilding the military, lowering taxes even if that emant deficit spending, and establishing SDI (Star Wars). He succeeded at all three of those goals.

3) I'd put Star Wars in the category like Bush's "third rail of socail security" and making school vouchers a mainstream idea. Prior to Reagan, no one considered SDI a serious idea; Reagan not only made it get taken seriously, but he put it onto the American political agenda strongly enough that the debate still continues today. And he convinced enough people that it could work that even Gore and Climton support a limited version of it now.

4) Most importantly, I think Reagan made a substantial shift in the way Americans thought about government and the presidency. We began to think that maybe government wasn't the solution to all problems, which laid the groundwork for numerous privatization initiatives in various policy areas. And we began to think that maybe the president could delegate authorty to trusted subordinates and could successfully lead blaying out the big picture. That wasn't nuique to Reagan, but it was certainly an important characterstic and one which he'll be remembered for, as well as a characteristic which Buish and others emulate.

musicabonita_2000 asked this follow-up question on 11/20/2000:

You probably thought i wouldnt write back but i've just been busy. I just wanted to say that not only do i not agree with you on the intellegence factor but i also dont understand it, which is rare for me. I can usually understand other people's points of view even if i dont agree with it. Perhaps you could try explaining it tho i think you already tried to and i still dont understand. I think your saying that you can be dumb and still be an effective president but somehow this just doesnt seem right to me. Tho i dont guess it matters but its still strange to me. I'm not sure there a point in trying to explain it to me but perhaps your up to the challange.

musicabonita_2000 added this clarification on 11/20/2000:
You probably thought i wouldnt write back but i've just been busy. I just wanted to say that not only do i not agree with you on the intellegence factor but i also dont understand it, which is rare for me. I can usually understand other people's points of view even if i dont agree with it. Perhaps you could try explaining it tho i think you already tried to and i still dont understand. I think your saying that you can be dumb and still be an effective president but somehow this just doesnt seem right to me. Tho i dont guess it matters but its still strange to me. I'm not sure there a point in trying to explain it to me but perhaps your up to the challange.

JesseGordon gave this response on 11/21/2000:

Well, I certainly wouldn't use the phrase "you can be dumb and still be a good president", but yes, that certainly captures the essence oif what I'm saying. I do not think that academic intelligence and knowledge are the most important characteristics for leadership.

I think the confusing point is in the definition of "intelligence." In common usage, "intelligence" means academic ability, the ability to apply logic and reason, having a large body of knowledge ready to apply, and other things like that, which are measured on classic IQ tests. I certainly think that Mr. Bush is less "intelligent" on that scale that Mr. Gore. However, that is the scale thaty I think is not so important in presidential leadership.

There are other forms of intelligence, which are not so readily measured by tests and academic degrees. The one I cite above is the ability to read people. That's a form of intelligence, too, I think, and one which can never be measured on a test. This ability means, you can go into a room full of people and sense their mood; you can alter a speech in the middle to capture the crowd's attention and shift them to enthusiastically support what you are saying; you can get people who are in your presence to feel that you are "connected" to them and that you understand them and their needs. That ability, which is NOT usually called "intelligence" at all, is certainly a more important characteristic in a president that I.Q.

Ronald Reagan was extremely good at sensing people's moods, and at shifting their moods to one of optimism and enthusiasm. Bill Clinton was a master at making people feel like he was talking directly to them, even when there are hundreds of people in the room. Jesse Jackson is reknowned for making speeches that capture people and move them.

None of those three people are particularly reknowned for intelligence in the academic sense, i.e., they probably would not do very well on an I.Q. test (maybe Clinton would. Reagan certainly would not). But "people intelligence" is something the three of them share, and that sort of intelligence, I think, is more important to presidential leadership than academic intelligence.

Mr. Bush would score lower than Mr. Gore on an I.Q. test. But there's little question in my mind that Mr. Bush would score much, much higher on any test of "people intelligence" than Mr. Gore.

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