Is Bush an Idiot?

by on February 7th, 2004

Jack Balkin argues quite to the contrary:

I’m a liberal, and an academic, and I know that both groups tend to look up to expertise. They admire people who know the facts and have a firm grasp of the important issues of the day. But that’s not the only kind of smarts in the world. In his own way, Bush is as clever a politician as Bill Clinton was, although his style is different in important respects. What he understands is not policy but power: how to get it, how to keep it, and how to wield it. That’s why his White House is secretive and disciplined almost to the point of parody, and that’s why he keeps getting his way even though he can’t talk about the most basic policy debates without stumbling. He leaves policy to the wonks and intellectuals he despises. He’s after bigger game: political control. While you have a good laugh making fun of how he mispronounces words and mangles policy questions, he’s going to use every trick in the book to bury you. And believe me, he knows a lot of tricks that you don’t. It’s time to take this guy seriously. Telling yourself how stupid Bush is may be a good way to make yourself feel better about the fact that you are out of power. But it’s not going to help you defeat him in November.

I don’t think Bush is an idiot. But I have a hard time crediting the idea that Bush is a genius Machiavellian. It’s sufficient to explaining Bush’s success that Machiavellian craft is reposed in some importantly placed advisors.

For my part, I’m still seized by the possibility that Bush is the object of some back-room, Trading Places style wagering. However, I’m not sure who’s playing the role of the Duke brothers in this version of the movie.

Tadlow Windsor II