George Bush was no rocket surgeon. Everybody knows that, right? Just a hick from the panhandle who was in way over his head. America needed a really intelligent man in the Oval Office, like John Kerry.
Well, if you believe that, you’d be wrong.
When Bush’s grades were first made public in 1999, he was then the Texas governor and Republican front-runner for the 2000 presidential nomination. Vice President Al Gore was his likely Democratic opponent. Bush’s mediocre college record was trumpeted by Gore backers as proof that the Republican candidate was a dummy. But in the spring of 2000, The Washington Post published Gore’s college grades at Harvard. … he was hardly an honor student, either.
Nonetheless, Gore backers kept up the “dumb Bush” mantra. Gore himself tried to lend the impression during his first debate with Bush that he was the smart one, often sighing and shaking his head in disdain when Bush answered questions. Post-debate polling suggested that the strategy might have backfired. Many of those surveyed said Gore came off as too arrogant.
Kerry himself apparently believed it. In April 2004, he was quoted in Newsweek as saying, “I can’t believe I am losing to this idiot.” The widely published remark was made in an aside to aides while watching a Bush news conference.
That theme carried over after Kerry lost. Many of his backers publicly attributed Bush’s victory to a dumb electorate.
Kerry’s grades were made public this past week [June, 2005] by the Boston Globe, which found them in his U.S. Navy officer training school application. During the campaign, Kerry refused to waive privacy restrictions for the full file …
Bush’s were a tad higher. His four-year average was 77; Kerry’s 76. Both were C students. Kerry graduated from Yale in 1966; Bush in 1968.
Oops. We’ve always found it notable that Democrats love to criticise Bush, who made all of his historical information publicly available before questions were asked, full academic and military records, and Democrats like Gore, Kerry, and Obama demand their records be sealed. We don’t know if Obama’s grades were any better than Bush’s because we can’t see them. On the other hand we do know that Bush’s military service was honorable and Obama has fought to destroy the US military at every turn.
But back to George Bush and his intelligence. Keith Hennessy was an economic advisor to President Bush, he spent a lot of time meeting with the President and he’s got some very interesting asides on Bush’s intellect, you should read his whole post.
I teach a class at Stanford Business School titled “Financial Crises in the U.S. and Europe.” During one class session while explaining the events of September 2008, I kept referring to the efforts of the threesome of Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and Tim Geithner, who were joined at the hip in dealing with firm-specific problems as they arose.
One of my students asked “How involved was President Bush with what was going on?” I smiled and responded, “What you really mean is, ‘Was President Bush smart enough to understand what was going on,’ right?”
The class went dead silent. Everyone knew that this was the true meaning of the question. Kudos to that student for asking the hard question and for framing it so politely. I had stripped away that decorum and exposed the raw nerve.
I looked hard at the 60 MBA students and said “President Bush is smarter than almost every one of you.”
I could tell they were waiting for me to break the tension, laugh, and admit I was joking.
I did not. A few shifted in their seats, then I launched into a longer answer. While it was a while ago, here is an amalgam of that answer and others I have given in similar contexts.
President Bush is extremely smart by any traditional standard. He’s highly analytical and was incredibly quick to be able to discern the core question he needed to answer. It was occasionally a little embarrassing when he would jump ahead of one of his Cabinet secretaries in a policy discussion and the advisor would struggle to catch up. He would sometimes force us to accelerate through policy presentations because he so quickly grasped what we were presenting.
I use words like briefing and presentation to describe our policy meetings with him, but those are inaccurate. Every meeting was a dialogue, and you had to be ready at all times to be grilled by him and to defend both your analysis and your recommendation. That was scary.
We treat Presidential speeches as if they are written by speechwriters, then handed to the President for delivery. If I could show you one experience from my time working for President Bush, it would be an editing session in the Oval with him and his speechwriters. You think that me cold-calling you is nerve-wracking? Try defending a sentence you inserted into a draft speech, with President Bush pouncing on the slightest weakness in your argument or your word choice.
In addition to his analytical speed, what most impressed me were his memory and his substantive breadth. We would sometimes have to brief him on an issue that we had last discussed with him weeks or even months before. He would remember small facts and arguments from the prior briefing and get impatient with us when we were rehashing things we had told him long ago.
There’s lots more and it’s very interesting reading.
We think GWB’s intellegence can be summed up in a short video. Bush, unlike his narcissistic opponents, is a man who understands how to communicate with “average” Americans, and we know this from first hand accounts of families of fallen Marines who served with our son. On the political front, while Democrats like to portray themselves as “intellectuals,” Bush was just himself, an average guy.
While we weren’t fond of many of Bush’s policies, we glad our Marine son served under a Commander-in-Chief who loved the Military and understood the gravity of his decisions. And yes, we miss him, we’ve missed him for about seven years.