Green Room

“George W. Bush is smarter than you”

posted at 4:56 pm on April 25, 2013 by

A fun anecdote and a compelling read by Keith Hennessey:

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.” More silence.

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….

Click through for his answer.  A personal note: When I served as a communications intern at the White House in 2007, I had the privilege of sitting in on an off-the-record Q&A session between President Bush and a small group of entrepreneurs under 40.  It was closed to the press.  For nearly an hour, the assembled group peppered the president with questions on myriad subjects — from granular economic policy, to war, to his relationship with his father.  I must admit that I was taken aback by Bush’s performance.  He was sharp, deeply informed, self-deprecatingly funny, and serious.  In short, he was in total command.  Even as someone who voted for him and who respected him greatly — despite several disagreements on policy — it instantly dawned on me that I’d never encountered that George W. Bush before.  Perhaps I’d doubted he even existed; call it the soft bigotry of (unfairly) low expectations.  I wondered why.  On that score, Hennessey’s piece is at least partially explanatory.

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Medicare Part D. No Child Left Behind.

Smart is as smart does.

beatcanvas on April 25, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Sounds like a very good class, where analysis of the assumptions underlying opinions are more important than mere opinions.

PattyJ on April 25, 2013 at 5:14 PM

It’s certainly nice to read, and all-in-all, is not surprising. I think the key portion is this:

President Bush intentionally aimed his public image at average Americans rather than at Cambridge or Upper East Side elites. Mitt Romney’s campaign was predicated on “I am smart enough to fix a broken economy,” while George W. Bush’s campaigns stressed his values, character, and principles rather than boasting about his intellect. He never talked about graduating from Yale and Harvard Business School, and he liked to lower expectations by pretending he was just an average guy. Example: “My National Security Advisor Condi Rice is a Stanford professor, while I’m a C student. And look who’s President. ”

Bush never acted high-and-mighty, and he never condescendingly “spoke down” to the American people. He always spoke to them in a cordial, folksy, and neighborly manner. And whether you agreed with him or not, you always knew that he was earnest in his declared support for his positions.

I miss him as President.

Stoic Patriot on April 25, 2013 at 5:15 PM

I’ve always bristled at the image that GWB was “an idiot” it always made me angry because it was an ignorant assumption. Happy to see a classy explanation that proves the truth, he is a very intelligent man who also know how to connect with the every day people. I miss him.

NerwenAldarion on April 25, 2013 at 5:19 PM

Interestingly, Bush was probably the most competent of the status quo politicians that we’ve seen in living memory.

The State Media has set the narrative, but when you look at the facts, there isn’t much question Bush 43 was a much more competent president then Obama has been.

Ironically, the central problem with Bush 43 was that he was politically moderate, if not left of center. One can imagine a more ideological Bush dealing with the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac issue before the bubble burst, stopping Iran and Syria from creating the Iraq “insurgency”, and the federal bureaucracy becoming just a wing of the Democrat party.

18-1 on April 25, 2013 at 5:26 PM

He was sharp, deeply informed, self-deprecatingly funny, and serious. In short, he was in total command. Even as someone who voted for him and who respected him greatly — despite several disagreements on policy — it instantly dawned on me that I’d never encountered that George W. Bush before.

Some of us knew that about him, insight gleened from the small human interest stories which occasionally appeared..

But the plain fact is, the media democrat left wing complex has always.. ALWAYS portrayed a republican president as “stupid, crazy evil” sometimes all three at once. Bush had the unique distinction of being shown as the dumbest man on the planet and the worst diabolical evil genius evah.. often by the same person in the same paragraph.

It’s an engrained leftist meme, which they absolutely believe.. You can’t defeat them and be a decent human being they disagree with, you have to be an evil being of depraved motive, and gifted in using “dirty tricks”..

Despite all the evidence the left STILL claims Bush stole the 2000 election, and won’t admit even liberal papers have cleared him of that charge.

Still claim he’s a moron, despite the evidence he’s not.. how many liberals who pooh pooh his intelligence could get a Harvard business degree? How many who called him a cowardly draft dodger could sit in the cockpit of a F-102 and not wet their pants.. the plane was notoriously difficult to fly, and he made multiple attempts to get reassigned to Vietnam. Confirmed by his former commanders..

He wasn’t, because that aircraft type wasn’t assigned to the war zone, and the logistical support for it wasn’t in place.. and he was to short time to be retrained in another fighter type. Besides, he flew Bear intercepts in the cold war.. not exactly sitting out our nations security needs..

You can disagree with his more liberal policies, and still know he is a decent caring man with deep religious convictions, and a deep love for America..

Something the current president could use.

Bush unlike Obama, didn’t see America as some awful place in dire need of transformation into an alien something else.. He saw America as the land of freedom in need of defending..

He was a VASTLY better president than any of the last five democrat presidents.. as much as he disappointed us on some of his policy choices.. he is a good man, I’d vote for again given a chance..

unless Ted Cruz is running..

but still.. America is better off having known him, and the left always slanders whoever opposes them. Like a parasitical disease they always destroy what isn’t them.. they may not want to kill the host.. America.. but that’s the end result if they aren’t stopped.

mark81150 on April 25, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Hell, the left thinks Herbert Hoover was an idiot which is odd given that he was effectively an engineering professor (his lectures got turned into “the” book on mining engineering. He’s as much of a professor as Barack is.) and he spoke fluent Mandarin and translated Latin for fun. When they’re will to consider somebody like that “stupid” I’m not surprised they’d consider Bush to be an idiot.

Dave_d on April 25, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Thanks for sharing Guy, this is a great article.

ButterflyDragon on April 25, 2013 at 6:15 PM

Think about this: where is the evidence that Barack Obama is particularly intelligent? He was a law lecturer at the University of Chicago for a dozen years, but he produced not one piece of legal scholarship–not one. He graduated from Harvard Law, but the way his former professors fawn over him for no apparent reason (see Lawrence Tribe’s accolades in “Invisible Constitution”) leave you wondering if they touted his intellect because it made them feel good about themselves to praise a minority student. (And don’t forget, when Obama was at Harvard, they were so obsessed with diversity that there was a student walkout–which Obama participated in–because the school had only three black professors.) Then you have Obama in the first debate with Romney looking lost without a teleprompter. I’m not saying Obama is dumb, but I sure don’t see any reason to think of him as a genius.

radjah shelduck on April 25, 2013 at 6:21 PM

From the article (emphasis mine):

This is a hard [question], for liberals only: Do you assume that he is unintelligent because he made policy choices with which you disagree? If so, your logic may be backwards. “I disagree with choice X that President Bush made. No intelligent person could conclude X, therefore President Bush is unintelligent.” Might it be possible that an intelligent, thoughtful conservative with different values and priorities than your own might have reached a different conclusion than you? Do you really think your policy views derive only from your intellect?

For comparison, one of “Niven’s Laws” according to SF writer Larry Niven:

The only universal message in science fiction: There exist minds that think as well as you do, but differently.

Libs need to read more Niven. They might learn something.

JimLennon on April 25, 2013 at 6:46 PM

A fair amount of the time these days I think George W. Bush’s father’s pink socks are smarter than most Americans…

Gingotts on April 25, 2013 at 6:50 PM

Bush would be nothing without daddy. Smart has nothing to do with it.

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:53 PM

A bit of a companion peace to this:
http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/4960/full

Count to 10 on April 25, 2013 at 6:53 PM

I’ve always bristled at the image that GWB was “an idiot” it always made me angry because it was an ignorant assumption.

NerwenAldarion on April 25, 2013 at 5:19 PM

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:55 PM

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:55 PM

Very true. Bush the Younger also gave us these gems:

“I’ve now been in 57 states — I think one left to go.”

“It was also interesting to see that political interaction in Europe is not that different from the United States Senate. There’s a lot of — I don’t know what the term is in Austrian, wheeling and dealing.”

“We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad.”

JimLennon on April 25, 2013 at 7:24 PM

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:55 PM

So, maybe it’s just the physicist in me, but I find that anyone that thinks an intelligent person can’t flub a line is a fool.

Count to 10 on April 25, 2013 at 7:24 PM

I assume that some who read this will react automatically with disbelief and sarcasm. They think they know that President Bush is unintelligent because, after all, everyone knows that.

Big Lies work.

Get enough people repeating one often enough and loudly enough and most people eventually believe it is true. The Left, in concert with the media, are enthusiastic practitioners of this propaganda strategy. The ball really gets rolling when most of the people repeating it do not even know they are telling a Big Lie. That is when critical mass is reached.

farsighted on April 25, 2013 at 7:37 PM

I’ve always bristled at the image that GWB was “an idiot” it always made me angry because it was an ignorant assumption.

NerwenAldarion on April 25, 2013 at 5:19 PM

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:55 PM

“57 states.”

“Hawai’i is in Asia”

F-

Del Dolemonte on April 25, 2013 at 7:41 PM

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:55 PM

So, maybe it’s just the physicist in me, but I find that anyone that thinks an intelligent person can’t flub a line is a fool.

Count to 10 on April 25, 2013 at 7:24 PM

You’ll have to forgice the rickv404 Unit, it’s a not terribly bright Democrat. The rickv403 Units at least exhibited some brain cells.

Let’s not forget how Chimpy Bush pronounces the word “nuclear”; it turns out that former (Democrat) President Jimmy Carter, who was trained in nuclear physics by the US Navy, pronounces that word exactly the same way.

Del Dolemonte on April 25, 2013 at 7:43 PM

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:55 PM

.
Remember that after one of Øbama]s speeches Hawaii is “here in Asia.” Be sure to change your map (if you have one down in your mom’s basement”.

ExpressoBold on April 25, 2013 at 7:46 PM

Last sentence in the article …

… if you base your view of President Bush’s intellect on a public image and caricature shaped by late night comedians, op-ed writers, TV pundits, and Twitter, is that a smart thing for you to do?

Zing!

farsighted on April 25, 2013 at 7:48 PM

The belief that W is an idiot is the exclusive province of those that aren’t nearly as smart as W.

CDeb on April 25, 2013 at 8:18 PM

The belief that W is an idiot is the exclusive province of those that aren’t nearly as smart as W.

CDeb on April 25, 2013 at 8:18 PM

Nah. It is the conceit of people who want to believe that intelligence is a guarantee against being wrong — and that their intelligence means that anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot. Some of the most intelligent people in the world make this mistake.

Count to 10 on April 25, 2013 at 8:53 PM

Terrific article.

Not only does Hennessey point out what intelligence is (Merriam-Webster: Definition of INTELLIGENCE
1
a (1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason; also : the skilled use of reason (2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)
b Christian Science : the basic eternal quality of divine Mind
c : mental acuteness : shrewdness, etc.) more importantly, he demonstrates the ways President Bush exhibited it.

Intelligence, to me at least, does not equate to scholastic education, or level of degrees. That’s simply societal education.

Intelligence is applying the methods of reasoning learned through adulthood to every day situations–in 43′s case, situations with huge implications.

Count to 10 on April 25, 2013 at 6:53 PM

Excellent read. Thanks for posting.

jersey taxpayer on April 25, 2013 at 9:17 PM

From the article (emphasis mine):

This is a hard [question], for liberals only: Do you assume that he is unintelligent because he made policy choices with which you disagree? If so, your logic may be backwards. “I disagree with choice X that President Bush made. No intelligent person could conclude X, therefore President Bush is unintelligent.” Might it be possible that an intelligent, thoughtful conservative with different values and priorities than your own might have reached a different conclusion than you? Do you really think your policy views derive only from your intellect?

For comparison, one of “Niven’s Laws” according to SF writer Larry Niven:

The only universal message in science fiction: There exist minds that think as well as you do, but differently.

Libs need to read more Niven. They might learn something.

JimLennon on April 25, 2013 at 6:46 PM

One of my favorite books, his recreation of Dante’s Inferno.

http://books.google.com/books/about/Inferno.html?id=rDSzFWXZg50C

rob verdi on April 25, 2013 at 9:40 PM

George Bush – He is the only president to earn a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA), which he obtained in 1975 from the Harvard Business School

HopeHeFails on April 25, 2013 at 9:52 PM

I liked him, and he categorically was not dumb – that’s just utter political bigotry speaking.

That said, I’m not a big fan of all of his decisions, but without a moment’s hesitation, I’d have him back in a heartbeat to replace the evil and tyrant wannabe nincompoop currently in the office.

Midas on April 25, 2013 at 9:58 PM

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”
 
rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:55 PM

 

“How about a health suspicion of and aversion to, government power.”
 
rickv404 on April 30, 2012 at 6:50 PM

rogerb on April 25, 2013 at 10:20 PM

Libs need to read more Niven. They might learn something.

JimLennon on April 25, 2013 at 6:46 PM

Libs are Crazy Eddie personified.

PackerBronco on April 25, 2013 at 11:28 PM

rogerb on April 25, 2013 at 10:20 PM

He probably thinks the typo is the only thing wrong with his sentence.

Daemonocracy on April 25, 2013 at 11:49 PM

In fairness, whatever Bush’s intelligence level, the only person who is to blame for the misapprehension is George W. Bush.

He disdained to defend himself or his policies and let his enemies fill in the blanks. This is a stupid thing to do even when your enemies don’t include 80% of journalists.

HitNRun on April 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:55 PM

“How about a health suspicion of and aversion to, government power.”

rickv404 on April 30, 2012 at 6:50 PM

rogerb on April 25, 2013 at 10:20 PM

That’s gotta burn. Someone call a corpseman for Ricky.

mchristian on April 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Bush would be nothing without daddy. Smart has nothing to do with it.

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:53 PM

What? You think Bush, Sr pulled a Santa Claus Election Night and flew around the country in 00 & 04 in a RS-71 and changed all the ballot cards to his son’s name?

Also consider that Bush won with larger margins of voters in both election as compared to Obama…while running against Democrats that were as Progressive as Obama.

Miss Me Yet? Damn right we do, Mr President, Damned Right.

BlaxPac on April 26, 2013 at 12:42 AM

scroll through the trackbacks at the article:

George W. Bush wasn’t dumb, but he was still a bad president.

In case you had any doubt that the campaign to rehabilitate George W. Bush’s reputation was phony and corrupt

Bush Family Furiously Selling Itself to Americans Once Again

Poof George W. Bush Was Unintelligent

They just can’t stop plucking that chicken.

Quisp on April 26, 2013 at 6:56 AM

Unfunded Medicare Part D: just a cheap politician’s cheap trick. Bush copied the Democrat game plan of using taxpayer $ to assist in his re-election.

Homeland Security: so much for the “small government” he never ceased to espouse. We needed that monstrosity like we needed a second Department of Education.

Campaigned in ’00 for “choice” for public school parents. What did he do? Went to Washington, French-kissed Teddy Kennedy and gave us Kennedy’s atrocious education “reform.”

The man campaigned as a conservative and governed as a New World Order liberal. He is an obsessive liar.

Every time he used the word “principle” last night with the Dana Perino interview, I wanted to kick my foot through my flat panel.

I can’t stomach the man.

senrex on April 26, 2013 at 7:58 AM

Upon what do you base your view of President Bush’s intellect? How much is it shaped by the conventional wisdom about him? How much by verbal miscues highlighted by the press?

Much like how Gerald Ford was a star athlete in college but Chevy Chase turned one stumble into a recurring bit that forever labeled Ford as a klutz.

Odysseus on April 26, 2013 at 8:57 AM

mark81150 on April 25, 2013 at 6:05 PM

+1

As for Hennessey’s article, it agrees 100% with everything I’ve ever heard from people who actually had to sit down and deal with him, and talk to him.

Neal Boortz called him incredibly smart as well, and if you’ve ever listened to Boortz, you know that if he met Bush and thought the man was stupid, he would have said so.

I guess he’ll just continue to be misunderestimated.

Chris of Rights on April 26, 2013 at 10:11 AM

That article makes liberals appear even smaller than I previously believed.

princetrumpet on April 26, 2013 at 10:37 AM

George W. Bush was not stupid. Nor was he a puppet for anyone, including Dick Cheney.

George W. Bush, however, was a bad public speaker. As is our current president, despite the claims to the contrary.

And George W. Bush was, at best, a mediocre president. However, he ranks right up there with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan when measured against the yardstick that is our current president.

Shump on April 26, 2013 at 10:50 AM

mark81150 on April 25, 2013 at 6:05 PM

1++++

The left needs to paint “the other” (whether it’s conservatives and/or Republicans) as dumb and stupid, as well as being Machiavelli-an evil. Therefore they can be caricatured and demonized easily, and defeated with the help of the left’s cohorts in the LSM. Ford…Reagan…Thatcher…Gingrich…Rush…GWB…Breitbart…Palin. These people were and are all intelligent and capable, but to keep them from having any influence and power the left must turn them into imbeciles who are dangerous to allow into any kind of position of power. It’s why they kept Rush off of ESPN; why they “Palinized” Palin; why they created the “amiable dunce” image of Reagan. Anyone who makes waves on the “other side” of the Democrat/liberal/leftist aisle must be destroyed at all costs, and turning them into drooling, dangerous caricatures that can be easily dismissed is what they are good at.

Sadly we’ve lost some of our best…but others are still out there, fighting the good fight, pushing forward, despite the obstacles the left throws up. May they continue to persevere.

theotherone on April 26, 2013 at 11:38 AM

President Bush intentionally aimed his public image at average Americans rather than at Cambridge or Upper East Side elites.

Reminds me of a comment by Eisenhower some years after he left office: “I got where I am by concealing my intelligence and letting other people take the credit.”

Owen Glendower on April 26, 2013 at 11:59 AM

Quite a good read, and bookmarked.

I only wish that Bush’s apparent high level of intelligence had guided him away from the disastrous spending he backed in his sunset years.

MadisonConservative on April 26, 2013 at 12:09 PM

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:55 PM
rickv404 on April 30, 2012 at 6:50 PM
senrex on April 26, 2013 at 7:58 AM

Further proof of what Guy and Keith wrote.

dentarthurdent on April 26, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Once some greater time has passed, and the history gets a more objective viewing, Bush will be viewed far more favorably…and Obama far less.

Bush is much smarter than anyone gives him credit for, and Obama not nearly as smart as the fawning press or academia believe.

krome on April 26, 2013 at 1:01 PM

If the Republic survives I have no doubt that eventually Bush will be quite favorably viewed and the current President’s terms viewed as an unmitigated disaster.

That’s a big “if”, right there. Personally, I wouldn’t put any money on it.

lovesthesun on April 26, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Miss Me Yet? Damn right we do, Mr President, Damned Right.

BlaxPac on April 26, 2013 at 12:42 AM

What do you mean we? How about “We dupes for fascist Republicans miss you. Mr. Decider.”

rickv404 on April 26, 2013 at 4:06 PM

It would be interesting to compare Bush’s and Obama’s transcripts.

Oh wait…we’re missing one….

ProfShadow on April 27, 2013 at 8:04 AM

Rickv is proof that consuming semen rots the brain.

That is common with 90 % of the gheys that visit here Ricky.You’re not alone. Drink at your own peril.

CW on April 27, 2013 at 5:03 PM

Bush would be nothing without daddy. Smart has nothing to do with it.

rickv404 on April 25, 2013 at 6:53 PM

Ah, I see;

Daddy Bush kept him alive while he piloted a fighter plane – check!
Daddy Bush gave him the fortitude to stay clean and sober when he needed to make that decision about his life – check!
Daddy Bush got him into, and took him through HBS – one of the toughest programs in the world, in which legacy matters least – check!

Did he get a head start, or help along the way – surely. But to minimize his unique accomplishments as not being possible without his father, one has to ask; Why was there no Kennedy II, Ford II, Carter II?

massrighty on April 27, 2013 at 8:41 PM