One of the least edifying

One of the least edifying forms of post-election commentary is the predictable flurry of articles on the theme that George Bush isn’t dumb after all. This is the third or fourth time we have seen a round of articles about what a mistake it is to underestimate Bush because, contrary to popular belief, he really isn’t stupid. This specimen from the Washington Post is typical. Even though I’ve linked to it, I don’t particularly recommend that you read it, since it says nothing new and this whole subject is a bore. “Dumb” is not really a meaningful concept in American politics; it is merely an epithet that Democrats call Republicans. Lincoln, the first Republican President, was widely regarded as a moron. Democratic newspapers depicted him as a gorilla with his knuckles scraping the ground. They apparently failed to notice that Lincoln was one of the most brilliant men who have ever participated in public life in this or any other country. Lincoln was only the beginning. Grant, one of the great military geniuses of world history, was dumb. Coolidge was dumb. Eisenhower, who organized the grandest and most complicated endeavor in human history, the re-conquest of Western Europe, was dumb. Ronald Reagan, the most important and most successful President of the 20th century, was dumb. Dan Quayle is dumb; a liberal joked that Quayle–a graduate of college and law school, a Congressman and Senator who at the time was the Vice-President of the United States–thought they spoke Latin in Latin America, and liberal reporters repeated the yarn as fact, apparently without noticing its utter absurdity. Now George Bush is dumb. All I can say is, welcome to the club. I don’t know why it is that Republicans never seem to label Democrats as “dumb,” even when the term would seem to apply. Based on academic performance, Ted Kennedy and Al Gore are dumb. Robert Byrd is an idiot, as far as I can tell. Mark Dayton–about whom more later–is utterly without mental talent. But for whatever reason, Republicans don’t seem to think that calling their opponents “dumb” is particularly helpful. It’s just as well, as American voters have demonstrated a commendable indifference to this particular form of attack. As of today, President Bush bestrides the earth (or globe? I forget) like a colossus, but I’m sure that next time he scores another stunning victory, we’ll be reading more articles that tell us, breathlessly, that he isn’t so dumb after all.

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