The Corner

Everybody’s a Critic

Some impertinent readers, to this effect:  “Derb–You say in your May Diary, of GWB, that ‘The man’s an idiot.’   Then in your June Diary you tell us that ‘W is an intelligent man.’  Well, which is it?”

[Me]  Pah!–everybody’s a critic.  I plead being mad as hell with W at the end of May, more calmly reflective a month later.

For future reference, here’s that I think about the man’s mind.  He’s well above average in intelligence.  You don’t get a degree from Yale–not even with a C average–unless you’re fairly smart.  Psychologist Linda Gottfredson, working from W’s published test scores, estimated his IQ at 125, which would put him around the 95th percentile (meaning that W is smarter than 19 out of 20 Americans).  Charles Murray pegged him a tad lower, but still up in the 90-somethingth percentile.

On the other hand, my rather strong impression is that while the president CAN think, he DOESN’T, much.  The Iraq blunderings, the poverty of his off-the-cuff oratory, the endless repetition of tired, empty cliches long discredited, the Harriet Miers fiasco, the stupid squandering of his small remaining political capital on that major-stupid immigration bill…  not much thinking there that I can see.

This isn’t so surprising–that a person CAN think but WON’T.  You see it a lot, actually, though usually among people with undemanding jobs.  A sort of mental sloth often sets in as you get older–the intellectual equivalent of middle-age spread.

I feel it myself rather strongly–a great reluctance to think.  If I wasn’t chained to a computer trying to support my family, I doubt I’d have a thought from one week’s end to the next.  For a chap like W, who has never in his life had to wonder whether he’s going to be able to meet this month’s car payment, mental sloth must be an even stronger temptation.

And of course, instinct will get you a long way.  A seat-of-the-pants Chief Executive can out-perform a high-IQ one–we all know that.  Trouble is, your instincts have to be RIGHT, and W’s mostly aren’t. 

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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