David Corn asks “Are Democratic Presidents Smarter Than Republican Presidents? “ And wouldn’t you know it? The answer is Yes! Democratic presidents are veritable geniuses—tops of their classes, brilliant orators, connoisseurs of facts, and champions of analysis, while poor Cro-Magnon Republicans are knuckle-draggers all (okay, George H.W. Bush is kinda smart, just not interested), left-behinders in the pre-Darwinian soup who have never read a book—but if they have it was probably a comic book—and not one of them gifted enough to have led “a seven-hour gabfest on a complex policy matter, being able to master the specifics and nuances, and field questions about in-the-weeds details as Obama did.”
Yet it is all too easy to envision either Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter hosting an event like the health care summit and doing a fine job. Weeks before he moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Clinton, well known for his lust for policy wonkery, demonstrated his talents. In December 1992, as president-elect, he skillfully played host a two-day economic summit in Little Rock with 300 business and labor leaders.
And don’t just take Mr. Corn’s word for it. He’s got James Fallows backing him up on Jimmy Carter:
With his moral virtues and his intellectual skills, he is perhaps as admirable a human being as has ever held the job. He is probably smarter, in the College Board sense, than any other president in this century. He grasps issues quickly. He made me feel confident that, except in economics, he would resolve technical questions lucidly, without distortions imposed by cant or imperfect comprehension.
Still, all condescending preening (“By the way, a new scientific report finds that self-identified liberals have higher IQs”) and nastiness (see Christopher Hitchens on Reagan for some middle-school-sexual-confusion-type malice) aside, even Mr. Corn is forced to admit that “there’s not necessarily a direct connection between intelligence and leadership,” and closes by asking “Maybe the question is, not which presidents are smarter, but whether it matters?” (If that is a question.)
But maybe it is. When you’re comparing the men who brought down the Berlin Wall and the Cold War along with it, liberated the people of Iraq from their butcher dictator and declared war against our terrorist enemies with the men who presided over the Iranian hostage crisis, gas lines, and our national malaise, and sullied the office of the president in a very big way, does it really matter who scored higher on his SATs?