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.

Most Popular

White House

The Damning Inspector General’s Report

It is hard to believe that the run-up to the presidential-election year has plumbed such a depth of farcical degradation. It must be that Trump’s influence has contributed to unserious responses, but he can’t be blamed for the unutterable nonsense of his opponents and the straight men of the political class ... Read More
White House

The Damning Inspector General’s Report

It is hard to believe that the run-up to the presidential-election year has plumbed such a depth of farcical degradation. It must be that Trump’s influence has contributed to unserious responses, but he can’t be blamed for the unutterable nonsense of his opponents and the straight men of the political class ... Read More
Elections

Diversity Panic Hits the Democratic Field

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An Asian guy, two black guys, three white women (one of whom spent much of her life claiming to be Native American), a Pacific Islander woman, a gay guy, a Hispanic guy, two elderly Caucasian Jews (one a billionaire, the other a socialist), a self-styled Irishman, and a ... Read More
Elections

Diversity Panic Hits the Democratic Field

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An Asian guy, two black guys, three white women (one of whom spent much of her life claiming to be Native American), a Pacific Islander woman, a gay guy, a Hispanic guy, two elderly Caucasian Jews (one a billionaire, the other a socialist), a self-styled Irishman, and a ... Read More
World

Present at the Demolition

Economists at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund must feel pretty lucky these days. They work for just about the only institutions set up in the aftermath of World War II that aren't in the middle of an identity crisis. From Turtle Bay to Brussels, from Washington to Vienna, the decay of the economic ... Read More
World

Present at the Demolition

Economists at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund must feel pretty lucky these days. They work for just about the only institutions set up in the aftermath of World War II that aren't in the middle of an identity crisis. From Turtle Bay to Brussels, from Washington to Vienna, the decay of the economic ... Read More
World

Well . . . .

So much for my prophecies of doom. Britain's Conservatives won, and they won with a very healthy parliamentary majority, breaking through Labour’s “red wall” across the industrial (and post-industrial) Midlands and the North. The BBC: Leave-voting former mining towns like Workington, which was seen as ... Read More
World

Well . . . .

So much for my prophecies of doom. Britain's Conservatives won, and they won with a very healthy parliamentary majority, breaking through Labour’s “red wall” across the industrial (and post-industrial) Midlands and the North. The BBC: Leave-voting former mining towns like Workington, which was seen as ... Read More
World

The U.K. Elections Were the Real Second Referendum

In the end, it wasn’t close at all. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party met a fate to which it has been accustomed for most of the last half-century. Once again, the British roundly rejected socialism. Boris Johnson and his conservatives will form the next British government. This was no slight rejection. Labour ... Read More
World

The U.K. Elections Were the Real Second Referendum

In the end, it wasn’t close at all. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party met a fate to which it has been accustomed for most of the last half-century. Once again, the British roundly rejected socialism. Boris Johnson and his conservatives will form the next British government. This was no slight rejection. Labour ... Read More
White House

The Costs of Trivializing Impeachment

Resorting to a vague “abuse of power” theory, the House Judiciary Committee Friday morning referred two articles of impeachment to the full House on the inevitable party-line vote. The full House will impeach the president next week, perhaps Wednesday, also on the inevitable party-line vote. The scarlet ... Read More
White House

The Costs of Trivializing Impeachment

Resorting to a vague “abuse of power” theory, the House Judiciary Committee Friday morning referred two articles of impeachment to the full House on the inevitable party-line vote. The full House will impeach the president next week, perhaps Wednesday, also on the inevitable party-line vote. The scarlet ... Read More