Today, George W. Bush says au revoir. His reign has been, well, squalid. Still, one has to admit a grudging admiration. He was, maybe, the least Conservative president since Coolidge, yet he kept the loyalty of a majority of self identified Conservatives until the end. There are two reasons for this. Most self identified Cons wouldn't know what Conservatism really is if it bit them on the nose. Also, where could they go. Well, to the Paulistas, but they would have to do some thinking and reevaluating.
A Fox headline blares, Pelosi Open to Prosecution of Bush Administration Officials. That's understandable. He had his way with La Nancy more times than she would like to admit. As hated as he was at the end, his popularity dwarfed that of Congress.
It is easy to dismiss someone who appears as dumb as your man, but the class that loves to make jokes about how dumb he is, should think again. He may have done nothing for the country, but that does not mean he did not serve well a constituency. It just wasn't the constituency that voted for him.
George was as shrewd as all the folks who laugh at him in Harvard Square. They just never got the joke. They like to think it was all Rove or Cheney pulling strings. Maybe, maybe not. Keeping in mind that, I am going to repost , er, in the spirit of the age, recycle an old bit about the outgoing maximum leader from October, 2006.
The Dirty Little Secret is ....Dubya is a lot smarter than you think! Probably smarter than you.
No, he is no genius, but so what. De Tocqueville made the point that it is the second rate men (and now women) who go into politcs anyway. No, George is just smarter than anyone thinks he is. Now, I didn't vote for the man. I disagree with his foreign policy and most of his domestic agenda. So why am I on a crusade to defend his intellectual prowess?
I am not so much standing up for the man as observing the blindness of those who belittle his mind, which is just about everybody in the country who voted against him and thinks they are far brighter than he. Which is just about everyone in the country who voted against him. In fact, a lot of the people who voted for him figure they could give him a queen and two rooks and beat him in three moves.
Typical of the feelings of superiority expressed is this ancient entry in the old gnxp blogspot from 2002 by a very smart man who calls himself Godless Capitalist and is a scientist to boot:
"Not only is he inarticulate, he is neither well read nor curious to find out what he's missing. The man quoted "Jesus" as his favorite philosopher. Jesus! Now, perhaps my atheist bias may be showing, but I doubt that Bush would have been able to fill spots two through five on that list of the all time philosophical greats. Whether you believe that Jesus was really Bush's favorite philosopher or not, such a remark is equivalent to answering "E=mc^2" to "what's your favorite equation?" or "Einstein" to "who's your favorite scientist?". It's not that it's impossible that these are indeed the favorite equation or scientist, but rather that there is immediate doubt as to whether the questioned individual has any knowledge of science beyond popular culture."
Of course, he was referring to el Presidente and he was logically proving your man to be a babbling idiot. Certainly, his logic was complete. Christ never opined on the problems of existence in the manner of a philospher. Bush has never given any indication he is conversant with the tenets of any school of philosophy.
Sorry, but Monsieur Godless was wrong as are all of you who laughed your heads off. Bush gave the right answer. Yeah, all you geniuses, GWB was dead on. It may have been the wrong answer if it had been given in an oral exam for honors students majoring in philosophy, though the question of favorite lover of wisdom would not have been asked in such a test. It was certainly the smart choice in a nationally televised debate when the question was asked by some smarmy little inquisitor who was hoping the candidate would fall flat on his face.
Just what would go through your head when asked who your fave wise man is before a nation who would decide between you and another pol they would be stuck with for four years. Would you have thought, "Let me dazzle them. I wrote a great paper on Kant and the categorical imperative* sophmore year and if I can expound on it for two minutes the American people will be so taken with me that the election will be called off and even Gore will support my elevation." In the words of one of my favorite philosphers, Jon Lovitz, "Yeah, that's the ticket."
Now I know this is tough, but let us assume something did go on in the then governor's mind when the question was asked. Let us assume, from a political point of view, that it was as follows, "What kind of question is this? The people don't know from Aristotle to Wittgenstein and neither do I. Okay, what is my best choice, assuming the prejudices of the American people?"
Good job, George. If you had named any philospher, there would have been constant analysis all night of what a fool you were for your choice. The fact that the commentators couldn't say anything more than, "Of course Jesus was not actually a philosopher," was all to your advantage. Your born again base loved it and it did not hurt you at all with the three dozen Latinos and seven African American who actually voted for you.
Now let us contrast dumb ol' George with a man everyone in my home state acclaimed as a stone genius. Michael Stanley Dukakis. In his first gubernatorial campaign, the bumper stickers read "Mike Dukakis Should Be Governor." He was thought of as a messiah (even so, GW was smart enough not to choose him). Everybody respected the brain power of Dukakis.
How did he show it off when he had the big question tossed at him? Time has not been kind to my memory, but I believe it was Bernard Shaw who asked how he would react if his wife had been raped and murdered as he had the squishy liberal rep on the subject of crime. Well, our governor did reflect on the question and a national audience was treated to his reflection. And, it was treated to some more of his reflection. And, then a little more. Sleep eze sales had to suffer.
The Duke's answer was honest and stupid. He did not get it that he was talking to real people out there. What I don't get is how he stayed alive. Most married men who had answered the way he did and had gone home would have had a frosty reception. The wife would be thinking along these lines, "Oh, so I get raped and murdered and all he can think about is understanding the perp." Me, I'd stay up all night figuring I did not want to take a chance on being stabbed in my sleep. Maybe Mike spent the night in the famous tank.
The correct answer, had he really wanted the presidency, should have started with, "If someone did that to my wife I would want to cut off their balls and watch them bleed to death." The desire for revenge is a natural emotion and being so philosophic about everything tells people Dukakis was (still is, probably) on another planet and could care less about their very real concerns.
Bush the Father was easily able to triumph over Dukakis with "read my lips, no new taxes." Dad would get his comeuppance when he exposed himself as a liar on the subject. I am no admirer of the American electorate and it hardly makes us all out to be geniuses that when we turned our back on someone who so blatantly lied to us, we elected twice a man who never told us the truth, but the Old Man did get what was coming to him.
His son led us into a war we did not need and his "Compassionate Conservatism" is little more than social democracy lite (albeit an expensive sd lite). With gas prices starting to skyrocket before the last election, I thought he would lose. Is his maladministration going to take his party down in flames in November? Who knows? Still, on one night he beat the world. Whether he did because he was smart or lucky is no matter. He did it and the people who make fun of his intellect don't get it.
*Full disclosure, I was required to take four semesters of philosophy. Like our president, I took the gentleman's C. However, as I was not to the manor born and was doing it at a backwater papist college, it was a foolish thing. My method of attaining a C grade was to ask a friend majoring in philosophy, the minimum I needed to study to attain my goal. It worked, and there is not much at this late date I can tell you about the Categorical Imperative.
Will the new Divine Augustus have as good a run as George? Hard to say. George kept the expectations low. That Obama has been all but anointed makes the expectations unreal. Especially with the mess that Bush has left him. Hmmmm. Did W do that on purpose?