In light of President Bush’s speech tonight, I thought I’d comment on a brief but interesting experience I had on a recent business trip. I just returned last night from Las Vegas, where I attended the 2007 Consumer Electronics Expo. On my way back to the airport, I shared a cab with three other folks. While en route, the cab driver spontaneously launched into a tirade about how stupid President Bush is. It wasn’t hyperbole; it was clear he felt Bush’s IQ lands somewhere between the African tree sloth and an above-average igneous rock.
Shockingly, I said nothing, but I was both offended and disgusted.
First of all, it seems unlikely to me that this cab driver is really in a position to look down on the president, his cabinet and his military advisers. Agree with their decisions or not, it’s not like there isn’t a lot of time, energy and brain power going into them. And I have a hunch the Bush team may be slightly more qualified than this cab driver to make decisions about war and foreign policy. Maybe not. They’re certainly more qualified than I am. Besides, all this guy did was rant and rave canned “CBS Evening News” soundbites with a few conspiracy theories thrown in. It was all (and only) about how bad Bush is and wrong America is, how we’ve re-written all the history books, how justified the rest of the world is in hating us … blah, blah, blah. Set aside that it’s rude, inappropriate and unprofessional to blather on like that with 4 patrons in your cab … and it was still pretty lame.
Secondly, hindsight is 20/20. It’s pretty unfair – even intellectually dishonest – to look back on the last few years and call someone stupid because they didn’t see looking forward what you feel like you see looking back. Watching the game is quite a different experience than being the quarterback. And it’s a whole different game beyond that to watch the game on tape a week later after everyone’s been talking about it at the office (analogous to our cabby friend).
Thirdly, the facts are the facts. President Bush’s cabinet is in fact quite well-educated – as least as much so as Clinton’s. Just for the sake of reference, I looked up a few key players and their educations, just for the record. From these lists of credentials, I see no reason to be calling anyone stupid. Wrong sometimes maybe, but not stupid, don’t you think?
Under Bush – 3 doctorates, everyone else with a masters
- George Bush – Bachelor’s from Yale, MBA from Harvard
- Bob Gates, Defense – Bachelor’s from College of William and Mary, Masters from Indiana University, PhD from Georgetown University
- Alberto Gonzales, Justice – Bachelor’s from Rice University, Masters from Harvard Law School
- Condoleezza Rice, State – Bachelor’s from University of Denver, Masters from Notra Dame, PhD from University of Denver, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- Sam Bodman, Energy – Bachelor’s from Cornell University, ScD from MIT
- Henry Paulson, Treasury – Bachelor’s from Dartmouth, MBA from Harvard
- Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security – Magna cum laude at Harvard and Harvard Law School
- Stephen Hadley, National Security Advisor – Bachelor’s from Cornell, JD from Yale Law School
Under Clinton – 1 doctorate (Clinton himself), most with masters
- Bill Clinton – Bachelor’s from Georgetown, Masters from Oxford, JD from Yale
- Warren Christopher, State – Bachelor’s from UCLA, law degree from Stanford
- Lloyd Bentsen, Treasury – Bachelor’s from University of Texas
- Bill Cohen, Defense – Bachelor’s from Bowdoin College (in Latin), law degree from Boston University
- Janet Reno, Justice – Bachelor’s from Cornell University, law degree from Harvard Law School
- Bill Richardson, Energy – Bachelor’s and Masters from Tufts
I’m not saying Bush’s cabinet is superior to Clinton’s (or anyone else’s). I’m not even really comparing the two. In fact, I think everyone would agree that Clinton personally is quite intelligent. In a head-to-head IQ smack down with George W, Clinton would win. And both men have/had good, decent and intelligent men and women on their teams. Both men could have made a few better choices. The point is that neither is Bush a dunce, nor has he surrounded himself with them.
In his speech tonight, the president clearly demonstrated that he is listening to the many voices (even of his opposition) who are advising him. It’s obvious he knows he’s made mistakes and is trying to do what’s best to correct them. When I look at Bush, I don’t see a moron. He’s made mistakes, no doubt. He’s been cocky and less open to alternative perspectives than I’d have liked. But he’s not dumb. The democrats (and many republicans) wanted a new strategy; well, here it is. Let’s see how things go.