June 29, 2003


Chatting to a senior journalist here a while ago. He was surprised to learn that George W. Bush’s academic record was comparable to intellectual titan Al Gore’s; like many people, journalists or not, he simply assumed that Dubya didn’t have no schoolin’, and ain’t never got no degrees or nothin’.

It sometimes seems that journalists are desperate to reinforce this idea. A case in point: recently Dmitri Piterman, president and wannabe-coach of Spanish soccer team Racing Santander, told a writer that he was qualified to instruct the team despite not having a coaching certificate. "There's a dork out there running the most powerful country in the world without a qualification to his name,” he told the journalist. “And you want me to have a diploma to run a football team?"

The line was picked up by ESPN, and then by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter FitzSimons. It went from Spain to the US to Australia ... entirely because it was wrong.

Posted by Tim Blair at June 29, 2003 02:12 AM

Yes, the issue of Bush's grades disappeared during the campaign once it was pointed out that Gore's were similar.

I note, however, that they make little mention of graduate studies, in which Bush earned an MBA and Gore...er...flunked out of two graduate schools.

Posted by: Ken Summers at June 29, 2003 at 02:27 AM

It's been commonly said to me that Bush wasn't able to get into tertiary study by his own abilities and only "daddy's money" managed to get him a spot.
Origons of this?

Posted by: Tim A at June 29, 2003 at 02:35 AM

Bush was a fighter pilot as well. Dumb people can't fly jets. They end up dying.

Posted by: Tim Shell at June 29, 2003 at 02:36 AM

I remember Michael Moore in "The Awful Truth" claiming Dubya was the benefit of "George W. Bush affirmative action", that he got into some uni or something when he had lower grades than some people who missed out.

I was a fan of him and the show at the time. How things change.

Posted by: Andjam at June 29, 2003 at 02:43 AM

They had similar records in the sense that they both went to Ivy League schools and neither was a straight-A student. Beyond that, I don't think their GPAs were that similar. After all, you don't get to pilot jets if you're a dimwit. There's an awful lot of textbook learning behind that accomplishment.

Saying Gore flunked out of two graduate schools doesn't really cover it. One of those was divinity school. I think it was Rush Limbaugh who asked, "God? How do you flunk God?" I find it ironic that those who pine for Gore don't mind that he wanted to major in God, but take offense if Bush even mentions His name.

Posted by: terry at June 29, 2003 at 02:44 AM

"Dumb people can't fly jets. They end up dying."

Reminds me of Mohammed Atta. (Ok, in fairness to the mass murderer, he seemed to be a fairly bright civil engineering student, but why let the truth into this?)

Posted by: Andjam at June 29, 2003 at 02:45 AM


He's just a dumb 'ol 'merkin cowboy as far as they know.

Posted by: Wind Rider at June 29, 2003 at 03:00 AM

Hi Tim

I am reading a book called 'Slander' by Ann Coulter in which she covers, amongst other things, the comparisons between George W Bush's academic credentials and dopey Al "I invented the Internet" Gore (not to mention Mike Moore - Amierica's answer to P Adams and Martin "Mr" Sheen.)

She also describes how books written by Democrats get their authors huge advances and free plugs on all the talk shows and in the newspapers. And yet despite all this, books written by the Fascists (as they like to think of us) which have no big advances, free plugs etc seem to be "surprise" bestsellers anyway! Which just shows that, despite the Left liking to think of themselves as the Intelligentsia, Republicans read and/or buy more books!

Hillary's latest regurgitations ring that bell????

She has all the credibility of Comical Ali!

Cheers and keep up the good work.


Posted by: Helen Dyer at June 29, 2003 at 03:13 AM

Dubya and I are both products of grammar school in Midland Texas. Both of us have MBA's. The correlation is uncanny.

Reminds me of Mohammed Atta
Many religous psychopaths seem to be intelligent...it's the "psycho" that makes the differnce!

Posted by: Wallace at June 29, 2003 at 03:23 AM

Terry, that's a great line from Limbaugh.

Tim A: about tertiary study, it's a load. Bush got in as a legacy undergraduate (Gore did same). I have seen absolutely no evidence that anything other than his own ability got him into a graduate program. (Even if strings had been pulled to get him into a program, strings don't help complete it).

Posted by: Ken Summers at June 29, 2003 at 04:17 AM

As Ann Coulter pointed out, when all else fails, call a republican/conservative "stupid".

Remember Reagan?? He was senile, a cowboy AND stupid (a senile, stupid cowboy?). I was young when Reagan was President and was always puzzled when he was accused of being senile, he didn't seem so to me. He seemed pretty smart, even lucid no matter what the media said. And Foxnews wasn't around to tell me that!

Ford was clumsey and stupid (they may have had a point), Nixon was evil and stupid.

John "bay of pigs/vietnam" Kennedy, Jimmy "I'll carry my own suitcase" Carter and Bill "fill in the blank with a G rate thought" Clinton were "brillant" however.

How do these stupid people keep getting elected?

Posted by: Kelly at June 29, 2003 at 04:22 AM

Well, the latest is that Bush now is a sinister, ruthless Machiavellian (Straussian??) manipulator of American and international politics.

Interesting how he has gone from being a moron idiot cowboy to the greatest, albeit malevolent, statesman since Otto von Bismarck.

He is literally driving the liberal/left batty. Admittedly, it's a short trip - but it's been fun watching from the back seat. "Hey, are we there yet, George?"


Posted by: SteveMG at June 29, 2003 at 07:52 AM

Comparing Bush to Atta is sorta fun. What do you think Atta's friends can expect Bush to fly the US into, and what kinda damage will _that_ cause?

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at June 29, 2003 at 12:36 PM

Bush isn't as dumb as he looks or sounds. But if you want to believe that he's as bright as or brighter than Gore, whatever floats your boat. Just look back to the Bush/Gore debates. Surely the ability to expound ideas in a coherent manner rather than uttering platitudes counts for something in intelligence?

He's got raw cunning and EQ, I'll give him that much.

Re his going to prestigous universities, there's something called 'legacy preferences'.

Having said that, Nixon had a recorded IQ of 140 plus - probably among the highest of the 20th century US presidents, along with Clinton. It didn't do him much good.

Incidentally I see the regular 'hate Clinton' session is back on this blog. Only one thing to say to that - Clinton did more to advance those parts of the Republican agenda that actually made sense that any Republican. Bush is looking like a protectionist/socialist compared to Clinton - he's even talking about inserting labour rights into free trade agreements.

Posted by: Jason Soon at June 29, 2003 at 01:44 PM

Ike was a pretty smart guy as well, and was also dismissed by left intellectual types for being simple-minded.

At least they haven't gone so far as to impugn the intelligence of our first Republican President.

Posted by: Tim Shell at June 29, 2003 at 01:56 PM

I watched the presidential debates and as I recall, GW won most of them hands down. Gore was a droning bore except when he was an annoying bore because of his constant SIGHING. As I recall a comment by Jonah Goldberg at the time, having to listen to Al Gore sigh in any more debates is considered the 13th ring of hell. I believe most snobs, who think GW can't articulate a thought very well, confuse his Texas twang with stupidity, and his lack of polish while speaking with the lack knowledge.

Posted by: Polly at June 29, 2003 at 02:56 PM

Yeah, I though Bush won the debates, too, though he didn't really outwit him. IMHO,he looked like an average person, Gore looked like a puffed up blowhard. So I think who won depended on what you value in a president.

Interestingly though, JFK apparently only had an IQ of 120 or so. He's often considered to be the 'best' US president of recent times.

OTOH, I would guess Jimmy Carter would have to have one at least 135-140, because he had a degree in physics. He's generally considered among the worst of all time.

Bush might mangle words from time to time, but he's actually a pretty good speaker off the cuff, if you listen to his whole speech. Better than what you get from just sound bites, or take him out of context.

Posted by: Jeremy at June 29, 2003 at 04:03 PM

Liberals--i.e., the majority of the mainstream media--just assume that Democrats are smarter than Republicans because they themselves are Democrats. It's simply a case of self-aggrandizement.

Posted by: S.A. Smith at June 29, 2003 at 06:12 PM

I suspect that Gore flunked out of divinity school and law school because he was smoking too much dope, not because he was too stupid. However, he's nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is. I suspect Gore can handle abstractions better than Bush; Bush is much higher in applied intelligence, including knowing his own limits.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs at June 29, 2003 at 06:21 PM

And what "legacy" connection did GW Bush have to the Harvard Business School?

Posted by: David Crawford at June 29, 2003 at 06:51 PM

Gore couldn't win an election during what must have been one of the longest American economic expansions, at a high rate of growth. He can't be that smart.

Posted by: Steve Edwards at June 29, 2003 at 08:22 PM

It seems to me in my own experiences that the smartest people I've come across weren't the ones who could tell you the capital of Bourkina Fasso or the ruler of the Ming Dynasty in the 11th century, but the ones who knew the limitations of their knowledge and knew where to go or who to talk to for advice. The old cliche - but it's a good one - of the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

It's said that former Secretary of Defense Bob McNamara knew how many and what types of aircraft the Bulgarian Air Force had. The "whiz kids" had all kinds of remarkable "intelligence".

And there's been no greater failure among the elite of America that Whiz Kid Bob. From Vietnam to the World Bank/IMF, the policies he and his "best and brightest" espoused were total failures.

Anyone read Michael Oakeshott's "Rationalism in Politics"? Good stuff there, no?


Posted by: SteveMGalbraith at June 30, 2003 at 01:18 AM

Thank you all for the lessons.
Dumb shit for brains Aussies are now enlightened.

Posted by: Pete at June 30, 2003 at 02:54 AM

Uh, Joanne, flunking out of Uni because you're a pot-head marks you down as pretty damn stupid in my book. I saw it several times during my University days - people went from 1st class honours (equivalent to summa cum laude) to barely passing, or even droppping out, all because of the wacky baccy (it really helps to have some kind of functioning memory when you're doing a Physics degree). There's lots of different kinds of stupid.

I don't think anyone's really claiming that GWB is the second coming of Ludwig Wittgenstein, but the fact remains that caricaturing him as dumb is a losing strategy. Bush is 'stupid like a fox'. I think Sun Tzu had a few things to say about underestimating your opponent, mainly to do with how you'd have your arse handed to you if you tried it. Gore is a classic example of the kid who's been told he's smart so often he gets to believing it.

Posted by: David Gillies at June 30, 2003 at 04:04 AM

Hmmm, Bush got his undergraduate degree at Yale and His MBA at Harvard, the Wharton business school I believe. I've read about that MBA program from several sources. They do not mess around, the protect their reputation. If you can get through their case study method and graduate, you are doing pretty good. Which is one reason why American businesses pay top dollar for MBA graduates from that school.

Posted by: Toad at June 30, 2003 at 04:49 AM

Hmmm, Bush got his undergraduate degree at Yale and His MBA at Harvard, the Wharton business school I believe. I've read about that MBA program from several sources. They do not mess around, they protect their reputation. If you can get through their case study method and graduate, you are doing pretty good. Which is one reason why American businesses pay top dollar for MBA graduates from that school.

Posted by: Toad at June 30, 2003 at 04:50 AM

I know some astoundingly stupid people who managed to make it through nuke school.

Most, however, are pretty bright. I don't think anyone is gonna hack Carter for lack of raw grey material; it's the decisions he made that turned out to be bad ones.

And even having made it through nuke school, he still says "nuculer".

Posted by: David Perron at June 30, 2003 at 05:49 AM

Jason that comment was as dumb as it sounded. And if Al Gore is so smart why ain't he president. Bwwwaaaahahahahahahaha

And I don't hate Bill Clinton I just don't respect him.

Posted by: D2D at June 30, 2003 at 08:55 PM

Eisenhower was considered "dumb" by clever-dick liberals because he sometimes gave rambling, incoherent responses to questions at press conferences. If they had been paying close attention, they would have noticed these were always awkward questions that Ike didn't want to answer.

Reagan was twice elected president of the Screen Actors Guild by his fellow movie actors. They thought he was smart enough to represent them against the studio bosses. Mike Royko wrote that Reagan was like the guy in a poker game who doesn't seem to know how many cards are dealt for stud, or whether a flush beats a straight, but when the cards are shown, he always has four aces.

Dubya has this in common with Reagan and Eisenhower: he doesn't mind being underestimated.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom at July 2, 2003 at 05:50 AM

Toad: Bush's MBA is from the Harvard Business School. Wharton is associated with the University of Pennsylvania, and is located in Philadelphia. Many consider Wharton to be better than Harvard, but it's not my specialty, so I am unable to judge one way or the other.

Posted by: CGeib at July 4, 2003 at 09:56 AM