George Bush: Too Smart to Be President

|

It's easy to forget that UPI is still extant, still churning out dispatches from the White House pool and columns by Arnaud De Borchgrave. And the James Bond villain's* latest column? It's a winner. De Borchgrave has worked his sources and uncovered the results of a book-reading contest between President Bush (pictured right holding Bernard Goldberg's final pre-dementia epistle) and Karl Rove:

Two of Washington's best-informed men confirmed it so it must be true. President Bush and his consigliere Karl Rove bet on who had read the most books in a year. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told friends Rove won with 117 books and Bush was a close second with 104 books.

Unhappy over his loss to his close confidant, Bush asked for a recount—in words. And the president won by 1.7 percent. The story is not apocryphal. In fact, none other than McConnell's predecessor as the nation's top spymaster, John Negroponte, now deputy secretary of state, confirmed it.

I am often—too often—asked to travel to college campuses and lecture on the nature and secrets of journalism. Before I toss my bindle into the railcars that spirit me from Goucher to Beaver to Rensselaer I stop and I wonder: "What is the most effective use of a high-placed source in the executive branch?" This is it, obviously. Note also that Bush judges book quality by "how many words it's got in it" and that he asked for a recount, and that De Borchgrave does not play this for effect.

Seriously, read the whole column—a classic of the too-small "Bush as Clausewitzean geo-political genius" genre. Get to this part:

In the case of a U.S. defeat in Iraq, as Bush sees it, a nuclear-armed Iran and the forces of global obscurantism would become dominant in the Middle East. On the geopolitical chessboard, it wouldn't be checkmate. But the queen would be gone.

Nouri al-Maliki is gay?

*confirm?

NEXT: This Week in Botched Police Raids

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Nineteen guys with pepper spray and boxcutters don’t give a crap about “the geopolitical chessboard.”

    You’re fighting the last war, Arnaud. That’s why we’re losing.

  2. Anybody else 1) have a problem with the idea that the President takes the time to have a book-reading competition? and 2) thinks that this story is a bunch of hooey so that 3) 1) hardly matters… he’s actually watching televised sports during his free time.

  3. Asking for a word count doesn’t mean Bush is judging book quality by length. The contest was over quantity; Bush was pointing out a different quantitative metric; so the real joke is that Bush changed the way “books” (“votes”) are counted to suit his own ends.

    But 104 books? Is he including comics and RNC pamphlets?

  4. First of all, I think these books contain subjects you should read about BEFORE you become president.

    Secondly, I think the contest is more of a tongue-in-cheek thing. Why is amount of words any different than amount of books when you’re talking about quality? Neither has to do with quality.

    Thirdly, the man is a lot smarter than most people think. He knows exactly what he is doing. We (or, the general public)let him get away with playing dumb.

  5. I call bullshit.

  6. Brian,

    If Bush is smart, we should all be scared, very scared, because that would mean he’s making complete gaffes and horrible decisions not because he’s wrong, but because he has other goals in mind than what he proclaims. It’s more reassuring to think that while he’s not dumb, he’s not a cunning con artist out to do us all in, but a rather mediocre intelligence that can’t learn from his mistakes.

  7. Number 6,

    Which particular bullshit are you calling, that Bush read that many books, that he asked for the recount, or that Brian is wrong about Bush’s intelligence?

  8. 104 BOOKS! I must say I am impressed.

    I had no idea that Dr. Seuss was so prolific.

  9. If you read a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, do you get to count it once for every different ending?

  10. Does Karl Rove get a pizza party for reading the most books? Or does he get an ice cream party?

  11. Yes, but did he finish coloring them all?

  12. 1) The White House should not be paying a staffer to count the number of words in 200 some books. If there’s nothing better for that guy/gal to do, he/she should be let go.

    2) If Bush was reading 107 books in 2006 while he was supposed to be running a war, he should be impeached for sloth.

  13. We (or, the general public)let him get away with playing dumb.

    So, all those times he’s said really stupid things, he was faking it?

    If I was a betting man, I’d pick Garth’s #3 choice.

  14. L-I-T,

    You’re first sentence is what I was implying. Just my opinion. I’d love to be reassured and/or reassuring but I don’t like to lie to myself. He’s not out to “do Americans in” but his religious beliefs (at least the ones he publicly displays) coupled with his energy and oil ties explains a lot.

  15. So, all those times he’s said really stupid things, he was faking it?

    Being intelligent and being a good speaker aren’t the same. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

  16. Why are people conflating intelligence and competence? One can be very, very smart, but have absolutely no ability to do the job you set out to do.

  17. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told friends Rove won with 117 books and Bush was a close second with 104 books.

    The link took me to a picture so I did not RTFA but isn’t second place in a two-man contest another way of saying last? And since when is losing by 12% close?

  18. I don’t necessarily think Bush is dumb in the personal sense. Though, of course, he’s hopelessly inept as a public figure. However, something comes to mind when one considers the number of books read vs. actual intelligence argument:

    Otto: Apes don’t read philosophy.
    Wanda: Yes, they do Otto, they just don’t understand it.

  19. The White House should not be paying a staffer to count the number of words in 200 some books.

    Meh. Better that than planning which country we can take over next.

  20. Um, 104 books in a year, that’s 2 books a week. I like reading, too, but I am not responsible for running the free world.

    I think this story’s crap. If Bush were doing that much reading he’d have a much better vocabulary. He wouldn’t stand at the podium for 5 minutes searching the far reaches of his mind for the right word and then come up with “kick.”

    I want to see the books listed. If they counted the words in them they can list ’em.

  21. During the recount, they didn’t mention that Bush can only read books with a lot of pictures in them. And, as we all know, a picture = 1000 words.

  22. Pro Libertate; Love the “A fish called wanda” reference. You have good taste.

    I’m starting to think, that not only is Bush an idiot, he’s also surrounded by idiots.

    Plato warned about the dangers of “Mob Rule” in a democracy, especially one that has easy to influence, uneducated voters, in his masterpiece The Republic. I think he was onto something there…

    But then again, we shouldn’t listen to Plato, I heard he liked boys and girls!! Liberty University wouldn’t approve.

  23. “I’ve known sheep that could outwit you”

    (Though, of course, he’s hopelessly inept as a public figure.

    Full marks for the correct answer)

  24. Being intelligent and being a good speaker aren’t the same.

    Oh, I completely agree. And I know it’s possible that Bush is not completely intellectually empty, but I just haven’t seen any evidence of it. If there are any unscripted things he’s said or anything he’s written that indicate anything resembling a serious intelligence, I’d appreciate a link.

  25. Why are people conflating intelligence and competence? One can be very, very smart, but have absolutely no ability to do the job you set out to do.

    I think it’s because most everyone agrees he’s incompetent, so it gives us something fresh to argue about.

  26. Why are people conflating intelligence and competence?

    Because of the title of the article.

    Plato warned about the dangers of “Mob Rule” in a democracy, especially one that has easy to influence, uneducated voters, in his masterpiece The Republic.

    If we lived in a mob rule democracy the popular vote would trump the electoral college. If that’s what you are referring to.

    If there are any unscripted things he’s said or anything he’s written that indicate anything resembling a serious intelligence, I’d appreciate a link.

    I don’t know what is and isn’t scripted, but off the top of my head when he called that reporter a Grade-A asshole I thought that was pretty good.

    Seems to me he bungles the scripted stuff because not even HE can believe what he is saying. See here for further explanation.

  27. But then again, we shouldn’t listen to Plato, I heard he liked boys and girls!

    There are many, many reasons why we should not listen to Plato. His alternative to mob rule was unchecked oligarchy. I’d much rather have an incompetent idiot in charge than a philosopher.

  28. Intelligence has nothing to do with competency. The smartest President we have ever had was Jimmy Carter, yet many would consider his administration one of the most incompetent.

    I know it’s fun to poke fun at Bush for being an idiot, but it is not true. Don’t tell those jokes so many times you start to believe them yourself. Don’t pretend that Rove or Cheney is secretly running the government, that only makes you yourself look stupid.

    The enemy of liberty is not individual men with bad ideas, but the bad ideas themselves. Fight the bad ideas, and stop wasting your time with McChimpy jokes.

    Your freedom won’t be preserved by making an intelligence test mandatory for office. There’s an awful lot of extremely bright people on academic campuses with horribly tyrannical ideologies.

  29. Bush is Bobby Brown-esque

  30. What is interesting in this story is what Bush reads:

    “Most of them are history and biographies of famous statesmen (and three stateswomen who took their countries to war, namely Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Israel’s Golda Meir and India’s Indira Gandhi).”

    What does this say about his motivations for various actions?

  31. The enemy of liberty is not individual men with bad ideas, but the bad ideas themselves. Fight the bad ideas, and stop wasting your time with McChimpy jokes.

    Amen.

  32. Amen except for Carter being the smartest president. I know we libertarians have a thing for the Founders, but I’m a thinkin’ that Jefferson and Madison both beat Carter. Probably Wilson, too, though he was a buffoon as a president.

    Maybe we should have Old Man Bush, Clinton, and Bush Lite on Celebrity Jeopardy. Although I think Clinton is pretty bright, my money is on Old Man Bush. But I think the president would do okay. Better than Travolta, certainly.

  33. “The enemy of liberty is not individual men with bad ideas, but the bad ideas themselves. Fight the bad ideas, and stop wasting your time with McChimpy jokes.”

    Yeah, waste your time in ivory tower rhetorical battles against furious green bad ideas. Never mind the actual men with bad ideas who are inflicting them on actual real humans.

    It’s *not* bad ideas that are the problem, it’s the shitbags who put them in action. Even Mein Kampf is a trifle if nobody acts on it.

  34. The smartest President we have ever had was Jimmy Carter

    Eh? Based on what? His love of peanuts?

    Don’t pretend that Rove or Cheney is secretly running the government

    “Secretly”?

    The enemy of liberty is not individual men with bad ideas, but the bad ideas themselves.

    You’ve got to be shitting me.

    Your freedom won’t be preserved by making an intelligence test mandatory for office.

    No, but intelligence tests for voters would be a great start.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.